Gary Hahn's Scouting Report
Sept. 4, 2002
#25 (AP) #22 (ESPN) NC STATE (2-0) at NAVY (1-0)
DATE: Saturday, September 7, 2002
TIME: Kickoff: 12:00 p.m. (EDT) at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, Annapolis, MD (30,000)
RADIO: Wolfpack Capitol Sports Network. AIRTIME: 11:00 a.m. (EDT)
OPPONENT--Navy spoiled what was to be the start of a return to the glory days of SMU football Saturday night in Dallas, TX. Many former SMU players were on hand at Ford Stadium, the Mustangs featured a new coach and expectations were high. However, it didn't take long for things to start going wrong. A pre-game fireworks show ended with grass fires behind one end zone. The rest of the night went up in smoke, too, for Coach Phil Bennett's Mustangs. Navy, a team with a 1-20 record the last two years, made that happen by capitalizing on five turnovers and rushing for 293 yards. By time the smoke had cleared, Navy was a 38-7 winner and its 10 game losing streak was history.
SMU took early 7-0 lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Wallis to tight end Josh Hampton. Then the Mustangs started making mistakes, as four first-half turnovers by SMU led to 21 Navy points. The Mustangs Jonas Rutledge muffed a punt that Navy recovered at SMU's 20-yard line. Two plays later, Navy tied the game on a nine-yard touchdown run by Eric Roberts. SMU fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving Navy the ball at SMU's 24-yard line. Navy's junior quarterback Craig Candeto then scored three straight touchdowns, on runs of two and 56 yards, before carrying from one yard out to put Navy ahead 28-7 at the half.
Roberts started the scoring in the second half with a one-yard touchdown run, and Eric Rolfs drilled a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give the Midshipmen their final points. Roberts finished the contest with 72 yards rushing on nine carries, and led the team with three receptions for 96 yards. SMU's Wallis finished the night 12-of-31 for 144 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Mustangs collected 182 yards on the ground, including 101 by Keylon Kincade. Candeto connected on 4-of-9 passes for 106 yards for the Midshipmen who won for the first time under new coach, Paul Johnson
Johnson, a former Navy offensive coordinator who helped the Midshipmen to a 9-3 record and a win over California in the 1996 Aloha Bowl, is back in Annapolis after a five-year stint as head coach at Georgia Southern. He posted a 62-10 record at GSU, won two straight Division 1-AA National Championships and was 1-AA National Coach of the Year from 1997-2000.
Navy utilizes a triple option offense and it appears Johnson has found a quarterback who can run it. Candeto (5-11, 197) played in five games last year and started two. He ran the triple option in high school and is a solid decision-maker. Roberts, a sophomore slotback (5-10, 193), will be starting just his second career game against NC State, but gives the Mids explosiveness out of the backfield. Fullback Kyle Eckel (5-11, 231, So.) ran for 35 yards on 23 carries and caught a 10-yard pass vs. SMU. The offensive line returns three starters, although the entire first- unit has varsity experience.
The Mids have plenty of depth at wide receiver. Four seniors return including Chandler Sims (6-4, 215) who caught 18 passes for 183 yards last year. Brandon Rampani (5-11, 188) did not play last year, but was Navy's big play receiver in 1999 and 2000 and Dominic Bailey (5-9, 164) give the Midshipmen speed and depth. However, against SMU no Navy wide receiver caught a pass.
There's also a new look on the other side of the ball and a new coordinator. Former NC State assistant, Buddy Green, is employing a multiple defense with a 4-3 base and has seven returning starters. There is depth and experience at linebacker with OLB Eddie Carthan (5-11, 218, Jr.) anchoring that unit. Ditto for the defensive line which features senior Josh Brindel (6-2, 280) at tackle. He made the preseason watch list for the Lombardi Award after recording 44 tackles (seven behind the line of scrimmage) last season.
Junior Shalimar Brazier (5-10, 185), a three-year starter at cornerback, and safety Lenter Thomas, Navy's hardest hitter, anchor the secondary. Thomas led Navy with 98 tackles last year including several highlight video hits against quarterbacks and runningbacks.
On special teams, Navy should be pretty solid. Junior punter John Skaggs (6-2, 202) is an All-America candidate after finishing fifth in the nation last season with a 44.8-yard average. Rolfs, a junior (6-1, 188) will be competing in just his second college game as the Mids place-kicker. Long snapper, Heath Sanders (6-3, 241) is a three-year starter.
Navy has lost 31 straight games to ranked opponents. Its last upset win over a ranked team was September 20, 1985, when the Midshipmen stunned No. 20 Virginia 17-13 at Scott Stadium.
INJURIES--NC State: CB A.J Davis-Out; Fractured fibula; WR Jerricho Cotchery-Questionable; concussion; DE Drew Wimsatt-Questionable; hamstring; TE T.J. Williams-Questionable; achilles strain; TE Sean Berton- Probable; quad strain. Navy: S Paul Clarkson-Out; knee; S Scooter Ross-Out; knee; SB Donnie Fricks-Out; fractured left clavicle; LB Reggie Sealey-Out; shoulder.