Navy offensive coordinator shoulders blame
Jasper caught off-guard by Air Force’s change in defensive alignment
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.”
Navy backup quarterback Garret Lewis avoids Air Force linebacker Kyle Johnson during the Mids’ loss Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo.