By Bill Campbell
Temple – Navy
Once it ended on Saturday, Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo didn’t dwell for long on the Midshipmen’s 37-14 loss to Ohio State in the season opener. “We played a great team that we couldn’t afford to make mistakes against,” he said. “We had to be perfect and we weren’t. But we feel good moving forward.”
Navy will be in town this Saturday to face Temple (1-0) at Owls’ hope opener at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple is coming in after an unexpected 37-7 win over SEC in a fame that was delayed by rain and lightning.
When Navy came up against Ohio State, things just went wrong. A fumble was returned 61 yards for a TD. Later, their defense let Buckeyes receiver Kevin Smith get behind their two-deep coverage for an 80-yard touchdown. Yet, the Midshipman can take heart in how effectively their triple-option offense worked, a design that Niumatalolo has worked on since joining the Navy coaching staff in 2002. Navy totaled 370 yards rushing which is consistent with their last-season average of 325.4 yards rushing per game, second in the country. The triple is pretty demanding but last year Navy tied with Louisville with just thirteen turnovers. Since 2002, their rush has finished first five times and it never has finished lower than sixth. “It’s no secret that we like to run the football and be physical,” Niumatalolo, who has been head coach since 2008, noted, “But we can throw the ball when we need to.” Temple had better be ready.
Nearly every weekend brings with it a number of sports events that catch our eye. This weekend, there is plenty to watch or listen to in our area. The Phillies will meet the Washington Nationals at 7:05 p.m. this evening at Citizen’s Bank Park to start a weekend series. The Phils are playing somewhat better ball these days and that four-man no hitter against Atlanta a few nights ago is something that we can savor for a while. Ryne Sandberg continues to juggle the line-up when he feels that it’s necessary and guys like Grady Sizemore, Darrin Ruf, Cody Asche and Maikel Franco among others have the chance right now to catch his and our attention for slots next season. It’s likely that the team will try to trade Domonic Brown if the opportunity arises once the Phillies hang up their gloves for this year. Ben Revere continues to prove his worth as does Marlon Byrd. From my seat, I hope they are back next spring. The Nationals (79-59) are at the top of the NL East now with the Atlanta Braves (73-67) right behind them. If the Phillies (64-75) keep playing at the level they have been lately, they could shake things up a bit for the D.C. team.
For golfers, there’s the BMW Championship being played out in Cherry Hills, Colorado, where Rory McIlroy shares the lead on the second day with Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland. The U.S. Open continues up in New York for tennis fans. Villanova will meet Fordham out on the Main Line tomorrow. Akron will play Penn State up in Happy Valley where the Nittany Lions, in their first season under coach James Franklin, still are smiling over last Saturday’s win over Central Florida, 26-24, with a last-second 36-yard Sam Ficken field goal. But there’s no doubt that most of us are counting the hours until the Eagles open against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at The Linc at 1:05 p.m.
The Philadelphia Inquirer included in the sports section today a supplement on the Eagles entitled “Chip’s Ship”. The thing that caught my eye on its pages was the offensive statistics, the offense that was second in franchise history in rushing yards and first downs last season. Last year the Eagles scored 442 points including 53 touchdowns, passed for 4,406 yards gross and 6,676 total. When you consider the preceding season or two under Andy Reid, those numbers have to give us more than a little reason to anticipate what is ahead. Coach Chip Kelly, having a season under his belt and planning for this one, recently said of his offense on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, “I want to be able to handle all situations that are thrown at us. We can get into a four-wide game, we can get into a two-back game, we can get into a two-tight-end game. We feel like we’re balanced from that standpoint.” No doubt, Kelly has been preparing since the season ended last winter. For offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the question is how the team can attack on each drive. The coaches believe that they have such diverse skills and sizes in their offensive players that defenses are left trying to figure out where to focus their attention play-to-play.
As for the gap which may be left by the departure of DeSean Jackson, NBC analyst and former NFL coach Tony Dungy says that the Birds have other players who can generate big gains. He doesn’t discount the value of Jackson’s contributions but says, “I’m not going to say they’re not going to miss DeSean, but I don’t think they’re going to miss a beat. They’re going to continue to improve on offense.” We might just be in for a memorable season here in Philadelphia – and Jackson will be in town with the Washington Redskins on September 21st. I’m thinking the fans will cheer for him as he’s introduced and then the Birds will show him what he’s missing. Chip’s Ship sails on Sunday afternoon.