Sec­ondary needs to tighten up

In­ex­pe­ri­ence showed in win over Con­necti­cut

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Bill Wag­ner

Grow­ing pains are some­what ex­pected when a foot­ball team is re­ly­ing on young play­ers. Navy’s youth­ful sec­ondary suf­fered some Satur­day when it al­lowed Con­necti­cut to gain 264 pass­ing yards.

Op­pos­ing quar­ter­back Bryant Shirreffs con­nected on 23 of 26 passes. Noel Thomas caught al­most half of those passes, to­tal­ing 11 re­cep­tions for 116 yards and a touch­down.

Navy started a sopho­more at strong safety, a fresh­man at one cor­ner­back spot and a ju­nior who was a wide re­ceiver at this time last year at the other. Se­nior free safety Dai­quan Thomas­son is the vet­eran of the unit, but he did not be­come a starter un­til four games into last sea­son.

“A lot of it’s just learn­ing how to play and learn­ing our stan­dard,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dale Pehrson said of the in­ex­pe­ri­enced group.

Con­necti­cut did well with nick­e­land-dime plays, par­tic­u­larly a short cross­ing route that pro­duced the bulk of yardage for Thomas. Satur­day, 7 p.m. TV: Com­cast Sport­sNet Ra­dio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 6

“We weren’t cov­er­ing it the cor­rect way. They ran it six times and caught four of them for pretty de­cent yardage. A cou­ple we played right, and they went for 2 yards,” Pehrson said. “We just need to get guys in the right spots against cer­tain looks. We made some mis­takes with not be­ing where we should be.”

Sec­ondary coach Dan O’Brien said it boils down to read­ing and re­act­ing in a split-se­cond, an abil­ity that comes with ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We’ve just got to do a bet­ter job with our eyes, see­ing the shal­low crossers and driv­ing on it. We’ve just go to be more ag­gres­sive in cov­er­age and get guys on the ground,” O’Brien said.

It ap­peared that de­fen­sive backs were caught out of po­si­tion on sev­eral pass plays Satur­day. Safety Khay­lan Wil­liams was beaten by a dou­ble move, al­low­ing Hergy May­ala to make a 41-yard catch.

“We had one break­down, for sure. We got our eyes in a bad spot and got beat on a bub­ble-and-go,” Pehrson said of that play. “We just have to be dis­ci­plined and do our job every time.”

Cor­ner­back Tyris Wooten was beaten by Thomas on a short slant route, giv­ing up too much cush­ion, then fail­ing to close quickly enough to make the tackle as the speedy wide­out went 34 yards for a touch­down.

While they were not happy with the break­downs Satur­day, Pehrson and O’Brien be­lieve in the over­all tal­ent the Mid­ship­men have in the sec­ondary. Safety Alohi Gil­man recorded a team-high 10 tack­les and re­cov­ered two fum­bles in his start­ing de­but. Wooten is new to cor­ner­back but has all the skills to play the po­si­tion. Wil­liams, who played ex­ten­sively off the bench as a plebe, is a good-look­ing ath­lete.

“I think there are seven guys that can all play. We just need to get them ex­pe­ri­ence. They need to get in there and play and learn,” Pehrson said. “There was a gi­gan­tic jump from the first week to the se­cond in terms of know­ing where to go and play­ing with some con­fi­dence. We played much bet­ter than the first week. We didn’t miss as many tack­les, we were around the ball bet­ter.” Fresh­man safety Alohi Gil­man, left, cel­e­brates a touch­down on a fum­ble re­cov­ery, one of two fum­bles Gil­man re­cov­ered.


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