The Washington Post

Change of scenery gives defensive a lift

The Navy football team had lost six in a row heading into Saturday, so the coaching staff was searching for any possible advantage in a game the Midshipmen had to win in order to keep alive bowl aspirations. Among the solutions in this case was as simple as has having defensive coordinator Buddy Green call the game from the press box rather than from his customary spot on the sideline.

The move allowed Green to see the field from a higher vantage point and to get a better feel for Troy’s spread offense. The result was one of the defense’s more complete performances of the season and a 42-14 victory over Troy that ended Navy’s skid dating from Sept. 17.

“I just thought we needed a change,” Green said. “I thought I could see more from up there. All these hurry-up offenses we’ve been playing, I could see their personnel and the speed of the game a little bit quicker.”

His players responded in kind too, most notably junior defensive end Collin Sturdivant, who recovered the first fumble of his career and logged his first career sack. Junior linebacker Tra’ves Bush led the team with 10 tackles, and cornerback David Sperry had eight.

The Midshipmen gave up 109 yards in the first half, when they rolled to a 35-0 advantage to all but ensure the outcome. Navy twice recovered fumbles in the first half, and those turnovers led to touchdowns that gave the Midshipmen a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

“Coach is always talking about you need to be ready when your [name] is called because you never know,” said Sturdivant, who wasn’t on this week’s two-deep depth chart. “Definitely I feel like all the hard work paid off.”

Sturdivant was where he needed to be on the final play of the first quarter, when freshman cornerback Parrish Gaines dislodged the ball from running back Shawn Southward at the Navy 35. Sturdivant dove on the loose ball, and the Midshipmen scored two plays later on quarterback Kriss Proctor’s 48-yard touchdown throw to junior slotback Gee Gee Grenee.

In the decisive first half, Navy permitted just six first downs to the Trojans, who punted four times and held the ball just 10 minutes 29 seconds. Troy also was just 1 of 5 on third down and failed to convert on its only red zone try of the first half.

Troy did manage a pair of touchdown drives in the second half covering 65 and 71 yards, but on senior day at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, those hardly seen to matter in the aftermath of a cathartic victory that left Coach Ken Niumatalolo soaked from a celebratory dousing.

“It was a simple plan,” said Green, who last called a game from the press box in 2007. “We knew they had scored a lot of points on people, and they were capable of scoring. They have good speed. Just tried to go with a simple plan to break on the football. The difference today without a doubt was the pressure. You play good pass defense when you get pressure and hurry some throws.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.


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