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Tag:Wyatt Middleton
Posted on: December 15, 2010 3:03 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Poinsettia Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Why You Should Watch: Because one half of the matchup is Navy, the team that continues to defy its service academy constraints with big wins, bowl berths, and the nation's most reliable year-in-year-out running game ... and their opponent might be even more interesting for the diehard college football fan. San Diego State has long been regarded as the sleeping giant of the Mountain West, a program with the resources and metro recruiting base to challenge for league titles if they ever got the right coach in place. Brady Hoke looks like he might be that coach, and after a huge step forward this season, a Poinsettia win would stamp the Aztecs as the up-and-comer in the new-look MWC.

Plus, this is the last chance to watch Navy's indefatigable Ricky Dobbs, arguably the best triple-option quarterback of college football's past decade. His swan song alone makes the game worth the look.

Keys to Victory for Navy: Things have mostly gone well for the Midshipmen this season, as they enter the bowl with their second straight nine-win campaign already under their belt. But when they've gone wrong, there have been two main culprits. One of them has been the pass defense, which ranks 66th despite playing two games against fellow option teams Air Force and Army . Even with the presence of senior star safety Wyatt Middleton couldn't keep the Midshipmen from giving up an incredible 28 completions in 30 attempts (for 314 yards) in a 34-31 loss to Duke, 413 passing yards and 5 touchdowns in the wild win over East Carolina, and 394 yards and 3 scores to Central Michigan in a 38-37 escape from the 3-9 Chippewas ... all without an interception. If a few leaks aren't plugged, SDSU's Ryan Lindley, the Mountain West's leading passer , will have a field day.

The other issue? Red zone execution. Though their numbers for the year aren't bad, the Midshipmen might have tipped 10 or 11 wins if not for zero points on five different red zone trips against Maryland and just six on three trips against Air Force. If Dobbs continues to throw the way he did down the stretch (including a career high 186 yards against Army) and Navy executes in their usual fashion, the Midshipmen will get their yards. The question is whether they'll turn those into points, and if they do, whether those points will be enough if the pass defense collapses.

Keys to Victory for San Diego State: Most schools would cringe at the thought of having to prepare for Navy's option shenanigans, but the Aztecs have to be quietly confident about the matchup. SDSU has already faced and defeated one option school this season, downing Air Force 27-25 while holding the Falcons to 12 points through the first 52 minutes. Defensive coordinator Rocky Long has years of experience with defending the option from his time as New Mexico's head coach, and he's been better at it than most. Between Long's expertise, the extra time to prepare, and the Aztecs' prior encounter with the option, they should be as ready as anyone to deal with Dobbs and Co. Though it's always easier said than done against the Midshipmen, they'll just have to execute. (It'll also help to have players like Miles Burris around; the first-team all-conference junior linebacker led the Mountain West in tackles-for-loss with 17.)

Offensively, if Lindley is on his game, it's hard to see the Midshipmen doing much to slow down the Aztecs. First-team all-MWC senior wideouts Vincent Brown and Demarco Sampson combined for 2,362 receiving yards and present major matchup problems with Sampson's size and Brown's speed. Navy also won't be able to commit extra bodies to pass defense, thanks to the presence of MWC Freshman of the Year Ronnie Hillman, a tough, explosive runner who finished 12th in the nation with 1,304 yards on the ground and averaged a sterling 5.6 yards per-carry. Lindley put up some huge numbers at times, but he also struggled with interceptions, his total of 14 tying for the second-highest in the country. If he can find Brown and Sampson more often than he finds Middleton and the rest of the Navy secondary, the Midshipmen could be in for a long day.

The Poinsettia Bowl is like: a forgotten pulp comic from the 1960s, in which a heroic naval commander, at the end of a long journey, has one final battle to fight when his division is ambushed in San Diego bay by ... a horde of bloodthirsty Aztecs?!?! Like the imaginary tussle out of those comic pages, this one promises to be hard-fought, action-packed (with these two offenses? You bet), and in doubt right up until the final frames.

Posted on: December 11, 2010 4:21 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2010 5:56 pm
 

14-point play may doom Army vs. Navy

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It may be a little early to declare the Army-Navy game (live now, exclusively on CBS ) over and done with, but with the Midshipmen up 24-7 at halftime , it doesn't look like this is the year the Black Knights end their eight-year losing streak against their archrivals. Army's first-half score is their single touchdown scored against Navy since 2006, so how likely is is they manage the three necessary to overturn the deficit?

Not likely, though it didn't look like likely that Army would even offer the Midshipmen a challenge after falling behind 17-0 and not recording so much as a first down until 10:15 remained in the half. But Ricky Dobbs' fumble set the Knights up on the Navy 23, and a short Trent Steelman touchdown pass broke Army's three-year touchdown drought.

But Steelman giveth, and Steelman taketh away in the most gut-wrenching fashion possible. Another Navy fumble led to first-and-goal for Army from the 3, but Steelman fumbled on a plunge over the right side, and Wyatt Middleton returned the ball 98 yards for a massive Navy score. Instead of being down three with the ball to start the second half, now the Knights are looking at scaling a near-impossible deficit. One play, a 14 points' worth of swing.

Of course, part of the reason that deficit looks as imposing as it does is because when they haven't been fumbling the ball away -- they've done it three times -- Navy has been the better team. Dobbs has torched Army through the air, connecting on four passes for 164 yards (yes, that's 41 yards a completion) and the Midshipmen own a 213-115 advantage in total yards. 77 of those came on this Dobbs touchdown pass to John Howell , the longest Navy play in Army-Navy history:
 


Assuming Navy hangs onto the ball, the Knights won't stand a chance of a comeback after Middleton's score.

They might not have stood a chance anyway, of course. But if the streak extends to nine games, there's also no question that's the play they'll point to as the moment things got away from them.

UPDATE, 6 p.m. EST:  Army made a nice effort in the second half, getting another touchdown pass from Steelman to pull within 14 points late, but a ruthless 13-play, 87-yard Navy touchdown drive that ate up the first 9 minutes of the fourth quarter erased any real hope of a Black Knight comeback. Of course, if you take away the 7 points from the Middleton return and add them to Army's tally if Steelman had forced his way in instead, the game might have been tied down the stretch. As you might have expected at the half, here is where the game was won and lost:
 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com