Navy of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor shoul­ders blame

Jasper caught off-guard by Air Force’s change in de­fen­sive align­ment

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Bill Wag­ner

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ivin Jasper had a shell-shocked look on his face as he walked down the tun­nel and into the vis­it­ing locker room.

Jasper looked like he still could not be­lieve what he just saw, and in­deed that was the case.

Navy had just put forth one the most dis­ap­point­ing of­fen­sive per­for­mances dur­ing the 11 sea­sons Jasper has been the pri­mary play-caller and it was clearly the root cause of a 35-7 blowout loss to ser­vice academy ri­val Air Force.

Quar­ter­back Mal­colm Perry had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide as the Mid­ship­men man­aged a mere 119 to­tal yards and six first downs through three quar­ters. Only some mean­ing­less yardage dur­ing garbage time of the fourth quar­ter pre­vented Navy from fin­ish­ing with the worst of­fen­sive out­put of head coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo’s 11-year ten­ure.

“They lined up like Army did last year. They had a good game-plan, did some good stuff and we just didn’t do a very good job of ex­e­cut­ing,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said when asked what went wrong.

That state­ment about Air Force us­ing a sim­i­lar align­ment as Army did dur­ing its an­nual show­down with Navy last De­cem­ber was telling. The Black Knights had nor­mally em­ployed an odd front against the Mids, but pulled some­what of a sur­prise by go­ing with an odd front dur­ing last sea­son’s meet­ing.

Air Force did the same thing – ex­cept this time it was much more shock­ing to Jasper, who was ab­so­lutely cer­tain Navy would see an odd front on Sat­ur­day at Fal­con Sta­dium.

“This one is en­tirely on me. You know, we spent two weeks work­ing on a de­fense… and they came out in some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent,” Jasper said with a heavy sigh.

There was much spec­u­la­tion this past week about whether Air Force would do some­thing dif­fer­ent de­fen­sively since it has a new co­or­di­na­tor this sea­son. Steve Russ, the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor from 2014-2017, is now an as­sis­tant with the Carolina Panthers.

Air Force head coach Troy Cal­houn never named a re­place­ment for Russ and that has left op­po­nents guess­ing as to which de­fen­sive as­sis­tant is mak­ing the calls. Asked last week about the sit­u­a­tion, Jasper did not think it re­ally mat­tered who was the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor be­cause the Fal­cons have been an odd-front team for more than three decades.

“I’ve been play­ing Air Force since 1992 when I was in col­lege. They’ve al­ways been an odd front team, a 50 team, and it hasn’t changed,” Jasper told The Bal­ti­more Sun Me­dia Group af­ter prac­tice on Wed­nes­day. “New head coach and they’re still an odd front team. They’ve had a few de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors come through there and have stayed an odd front team.”

That com­ment was a clear in­di­ca­tion Jasper was ex­pect­ing to see an odd front again from the Fal­cons. Who­ever is the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, and most in­sid­ers be­lieve it is ei­ther se­condary coach John Rudzin­ski or lineback­ers coach Brian Knorr, de­cided this par­tic­u­lar ser­vice academy show­down would be a good time to un­veil an even front for the first time.

“I give Air Force all the credit in the world. They came out of their char­ac­ter from what they’ve nor­mally done and did some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent to­day,” Jasper said. “This is 100 per­cent all on me. I didn’t pre­pare our guys prop­erly. We worked on the other look and our kids weren’t pre­pared.”

DOUGAL BROWNLIE/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Navy backup quar­ter­back Gar­ret Lewis avoids Air Force line­backer Kyle John­son dur­ing the Mids’ loss Sat­ur­day in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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