Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eagle Bank Bowl Notes: Wake Forest 29, Navy 19

Redemption City:

The first time these teams met Riley Skinner threw four interceptions in a Wake Forest loss – arguably the worst performance of his career considering the junior signal caller had just seven interceptions total on the season. On Saturday he completed all 11 of his pass attempts for 166 yards (15.1 yards per pass attempt) and the game-winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

Skinner played a smart conservative game. Several times with his receivers covered down field, Skinner tucked the ball and ran rather than forcing a pass into coverage. Punting isn’t always the worst thing.

Down 13-0 late in the second quarter, Skinner opened it up completing passes of 21 and 30 yards to senior wide out D.J. Boldin (four receptions, 66 yards) while leading the Deacs on a 98-yard drive to close out the half. With the score 13-7 early in the third quarter, Skinner connected on a 32-yard pass to tailback Kevin Harris coming out of the backfield after faking a hand-off to Alphonso Smith. This set up a Josh Adams touchdown and gave Wake its first lead of the day. Trailing again in the fourth quarter, the junior quarterback spotted a wide open Chip Brinkman 44 yards down the field to position the North Carolina school for the game-winning score. Three plays later Skinner found tight end Ben Wooster in the back of the end zone. Throughout the game, Skinner did an excellent job of moving his feet in the pocket and buying more time for his receivers to get down the field.

The Demon Deacons improved to 19-3 when Skinner does not throw an interception. They are just 7-8 when he throws an interception.

Aaron Curry Is A Beast:

Going up against the triple-option offense of Navy was not the ideal setting to scout Aaron Curry’s vast array of skills. Nevertheless, the senior stood out as the best football player on either squad. The Butkus Award winner did a great job of being disciplined and taking care of his responsibilities – if his duty was to take the pitchman, he took the pitchman, and if he was assigned the quarterback, he hit the quarterback.

Curry was unstoppable as a pass-rusher. Even though he didn’t record a sack, whenever the Midshipmen dropped back to pass (which wasn’t often), Curry was able to pressure the quarterback, often laying a lick. The strongside backer used his strength, speed and spin moves to overwhelm would-be blockers. Whenever a back was asked to block Curry, who was explosive running down ball carriers, it was game over. He even looked good when he put his hand down on the ground.

The future first round pick may have made just four tackles (one TFL), but no one had a bigger impact on the game.


You don’t think football is a game of match-ups? The Demon Deacons went with a surprise starter at tailback in junior Harris. Harris entered the game with 40 yards on nine carries on the season and had accumulated just 100 yards over the last two seasons following his 393 yards as a freshman in 2006. The 230-pound back outweighed eight of Navy’s starting defenders, with only the three down linemen tipping the scales more than the Wake tailback. In fact, nose guard Nate Frazier is the only Navy starter that checks in at over 250 pounds.

Harris rumbled for 136 yards on 24 carries in all, although he was stuffed twice on third-and-one in the contest. Even against the undersized Navy line, the Wake Forest offensive line struggled in short yardage situations just as it had all season. Backup Adams did his best work in the red zone, twice crossing the goal line. The 2007 ACC Freshman of the Year suffered through an injury plagued sophomore campaign.

Alphonso Smith Sets Record:

When an errant Kaipo-Nao Keheaku-Enhada pass fell into the waiting arms of Alphonso Smith, the Bronko Nagurski finalist became the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time leading interceptor with his 21st career theft. Smith’s accomplishment on defense made up for his fumble on offense. Taking a reverse, the senior cornerback displayed his deft running skills, but did not protect the ball fumbling the pigskin into the hands of Navy defensive back Rashawn King, who scooped it up and strolled in from 50 yards out to give the Midshipmen a 10-0 first quarter lead. Smith (one tackle) had some trouble shedding blocks and one could imagine going up against a triple-option offense is not something the lockdown cover corner was looking forward to.

More Defensive Notes:

* Senior free safety Chip Vaughn (team-high eight tackles) made several plays particularly when he was allowed to roam free. He is a very good open field tackler, capable of delivering a solid blow with his 215-pound frame. However, whenever a blocker got his hands on Vaughn, the senior had major problems getting disengaged.

* The same could be said for senior middle linebacker Stanley Arnoux (seven tackles). He made some plays when the offensive line kept him untouched, but he can be blocked.

* One defender who seemed to flourish playing the triple-option was junior cornerback Brandon Ghee (six tackles, 1.5 TFLs) – he was beating blocks, getting penetration and making plays in the backfield.

Navy Notes:

* Fullback Eric Kettani, who didn’t have a big day as a runner, had trouble the couple of times he was asked to block Mr. Curry. Kettani ran for 50 yards on 14 carries (3.6 yards per carry) after busting loose for 175 yards versus the Demon Deacons in the regular season. He fell 18 yards short of 1,000-yard season. Shun White broke off a 39-yard run on Navy’s first offensive play, but was quiet after that (14 carries, 71 yards). Their most effective runner was Kaheaku-Enhada who ran for a season-high 83 yards on 15 carries (5.5 yards per carry) and had their lone offensive touchdown.

* Frazier was Navy’s best defender, displaying excellent quickness for a man of his size. The junior doesn’t have much closing speed if the play goes outside the tackles, but has the ability to disrupt a play from the interior. Also keep an eye on freshman Jabaree Tuani, an undersized but quick defensive end. He is likely better suited to play in a 4-3 defense rather than the 3-4 scheme the Midshipmen employed this season.

* Notable Service Assignments:
Kaipo-Nao Keheaku-Enhada and Rashawn King will serve in the Marine Corps (Ground). Eric Kettani, Shun White and wide receiver Tyree Barnes will serve on Surface Warfare units.

Photo Credit: College Press Box, Brian Westerholt of Sports on Film