“This is horrible,” Niumatalolo shouted. “We’ve got a game in three days, and we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.”
Niumatalolo also chided his players at the end of practice, clearly unhappy with the effort and execution. When asked what message he was trying to send, Niumatalolo responded curtly: “That’s for our team.”
Asked if he was upset about anything in particular, he said, “Obviously we didn’t practice the way we want to practice.”
Once practice ended, Niumatalolo was so upset that he did not allow players to speak with members of the media. Instead only he and assistant coaches were available three days before the Midshipmen open the season on Saturday against division I-AA Delaware at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Niumatalolo’s intention, though, clearly was to impart to his team that it can’t take any time off preparing for an opponent, even if on paper Delaware doesn’t seem that daunting.
Niumatalolo has said all along that his top priority as a coach is to ensure his players take nothing for granted because at the Naval Academy, the line between winning and losing is often razor-thin.
Take last season for instance, when the Midshipmen won two games by a single point and two others by a touchdown or fewer.
“I didn’t think our focus was there,” Niumatalolo said. “Offensively, I didn’t think our focus was there. It had nothing to do with the defense. Just trying to get out guys to do a better job and making sure we that we come out and prepare right for the game.”
Navy is coming off a season in which it went 9-4 but graduated a host of major contributors on both offense and defense. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs and wide receiver Greg Jones are gone, as is saftey Wyatt Middleton, a four-year starter and co-captain.