- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Shun White spent the final hours Saturday the same way he does most nights after a game - relaxing with friends and watching college football. But it was hardly an ordinary day for the slotback, who hours earlier gashed Towson’s defense for a school-record 348 rushing yards.

He needed to look no further than his voice mail and e-mail inboxes to see he was a star locally. And after watching Alabama upset Clemson, White saw how incredible his performance was when a replay of his 87-yard touchdown run made the top 10 on “SportsCenter.”

“A lot of people were congratulating me, my family and friends,” White said. “My cell phone had a million messages. It was crazy. I’m still sending replies thanking everybody, trying to get back to everybody. It was pandemonium.”

To avoid serious injury to his most experienced slotback, coach Ken Niumatalolo limited White to one or two drives in each of the Midshipmen’s three preseason scrimmages. Niumatalolo knew what kind of contribution he would get from White, who last season led the Mids’ slotbacks with 620 rushing yards.

Navy’s coaches expected White would be a vital cog in this year’s triple-option offense, but still they were taken aback by his performance in the Mids’ 41-13 opening victory. Solid perimeter blocking from the other backs and wide receivers and good option reads by quarterback Jarod Bryant proved important in providing running room, but White, the Patriot League’s reigning 200-meter champion, delivered the knockout punches with touchdowns of 33, 87 and 73 yards.

“He’s a special player without a doubt,” offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. “It’s one thing to block people, but he just outran some people. That’s all him. It was good to see him show his physical talent and get in the record books.”

The Mids’ 602-yard explosion was a welcome sight after the offense labored through preseason camp. But citing 20 missed blocks, Jasper said there is room to improve.

Towson failed to make defensive adjustments, opting to keep an extra defender in the box to stop fullback Eric Kettani and leaving themselves vulnerable on the outside. As a result, Bryant said Navy ran just a handful of plays the whole game.

A tougher task awaits Navy on Friday night at Ball State. Cardinals defensive coordinator Mark Smith is familiar with the triple-option, having coached at Indiana State with Jasper in 1998. Ball State also has the advantage of having played the Mids last year.

But the Cardinals will find it difficult to key on White because the Mids don’t run a conventional offense. White had 19 carries against Towson because the Tigers committed to stopping the fullback. Navy uses the triple-option to its advantage, exploiting the defense’s weakness with various ball carriers.

“They can probably find some tendencies, but after one game I don’t know if there’s anything you can look at,” Jasper said. “In this game, it can be the quarterback who has a big day or the fullback. That’s the beauty of the offense.”

Ball State won last year’s overtime meeting 34-31, and Navy expects another challenge from the Cardinals’ offense. Led by quarterback Nate Davis, the Cardinals gutted the Mids for 539 yards in Annapolis. Last week Davis completed 21 of 24 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns in just three quarters of Ball State’s 48-14 rout of Northeastern.

“It’s gonna be a tough game. They are probably the best offense we’ve seen in a while,” Niumatalolo said. “They’ve scored a lot of points against a lot of people.”

White carried Navy last week with a performance that will be hard to repeat. His play is critical to Navy’s success this season, and he’s determined to make his senior year memorable.

“The last couple of years, I’ve been behind Reggie [Campbell] and Zerb [Singleton], who were great mentors to me,” White said. “It’s my time now, and I’m gonna try to make the best of it.”

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