2007 Poinsettia Bowl Preview
Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (8-4, Independent) vs. Utah (8-4, Mountain West)
December 20, 2007 @ 9 PM (EST) - ESPN - Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, CA
The 2007-2008 college football bowl season will kickoff with the Poinsettia Bowl and a very intriguing match-up that features contrasting styles, as Navy will face Utah for the first time ever.
The Midshipmen (8-4) possess the nation’s top rushing offense (351.5 ypg) and average 40 points per contest, but they will be going up against the nation’s #3 scoring defense in Utah (15.6 ppg).
Both programs have been amongst the most steady in the nation over recent years. Paul Johnson, who is in his sixth season in Annapolis, has accomplished what many said he or no one would be able to at the Naval Academy. He has taken the Middies to their school record fifth straight bowl game while compiled an eye-opening 43-19 mark after going 2-10 in his first season. This degree of success has “PJ” being mentioned for numerous jobs around the nation—including SMU, Duke and Georgia Tech (after the publication of this preview, it was announced that Johnson has indeed accepted an offer from Georgia Tech).
Three of the Middies four losses were against bowl teams (Rutgers, Ball State, and Wake Forest). The only other defeat was in a 59-52 shootout to Division I-AA/FCS semifinalist Delaware. Overtime victories at Pitt (48-45, 2OT) and Notre Dame (46-44, 3OT) were highlights of the season. It was the first time Navy had defeated the Fighting Irish in 44 years.
Navy’s rushing attack has been at or near the top of the nation since Johnson assumed control of the program. This year’s team features a very balanced attack as seven players have rushed for 463 yards or more.
Slotback Reggie Campbell, who also returns kickoffs and punts, averages more than 150 all-purpose yards and has taken two kickoffs back for scores this season. He is also averaging 14.3 yards on punt returns.
Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada leads the ground attack with 782 yards and 11 of his team’s 51 rushing touchdowns. The Midshipmen don’t put it in the air much, but when they do it is normally play action and they’re effective. He has thrown for 830 yards and six touchdowns on only 84 attempts. O.J. Washington has 11 receptions for 234 yards.
Utah is also making its fifth consecutive bowl appearance and its third under current coach Kyle Whittingham. The first two trips came under Florida coach Urban Meyer.
The Utes opened the year at 1-3, but proceeded to win their next seven before dropping a 17-10 decision at rival BYU to close the campaign.
Running back Darrell Mack posted a 1,000-yard season—1,128 to be exact—and reached the end zone ten times via the ground.
Utah will play two quarterbacks, but Brian Johnson has been the most productive. Johnson has connected on 65 percent of his passes while throwing for slightly over 1600 yards and ten scores.
The top targets in the passing game are Derrek Richards (53-574) and Bradon Godfrey (49-510).
If it comes down to a field goal, the Utes should be in great shape. They have Louie Sakada, who is 19-of-22 and 10-of-13 from 40-plus, at their disposal. He also averages 44.8 yards per punt and has pinned opponents inside their 20 on 27 occasions while also forcing 22 fair catches.
Utah will need to maximize its scoring opportunities as it is unlikely to just shut Navy down on offense. The Utes are seventh nationally in third down defense. Opponents convert only 28.8 percent of their attempts. Similar success will be needed in this game since Navy can really eat up clock with their ground attack.
On the other hand, Navy will just need to do what it does best and that is run the football while mixing in effective play-action passing. The Utes are only allowing 130 yards per game on the ground, but they haven’t seen an option attack with the potency of this one.
Utah 34 - Navy 24
by Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum
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