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Saturday, December 20, 2008
Navy let's one slip away


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Had Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada kept running, Navy might have had a chance.

 
 AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
 Wake Forest's Ben Wooster (85) celebrates his touchdown against Navy during the fourth quarter of the EagleBank Bowl.

With less than two minutes remaining and Navy facing fourth-and-10, Kaheaku-Enhada scrambled from the pocket. Instead of running hard to the first-down marker, he looked to pass the ball, hesitated and was tracked down. He fumbled the ball before he reached the marker and Wake Forest ultimately scored to put the game away.

Now, I'm not blaming Navy's 29-19 loss to Wake Forest in the EagleBank Bowl on Kaheaku-Enhada. Quite the contrary. Kaheaku-Enhada helped the Midshipmen to a lead in the first half and kept them in the game late.

But there were several things that led to the loss, including Navy's inability to throw the ball on key downs and when it trailed late in the fourth quarter. Navy was 2-for-7 passing, and while that's not uncommon for the Midshipmen, they needed to have some variance in their game plan considering Wake Forest was an opponent they'd already faced and already knew what to expect. The Wake Forest defense was ready for the option and more times than not, stopped Navy behind the line of scrimmage.

Also, the Navy defense allowed Wake Forest receivers to get behind them multiple times. In the first meeting, Navy did a better job of reading Wake quarterback Riley Skinner and jumping routes. Skinner had a great game in the EagleBank Bowl and made amends for the four interceptions he threw in the first meting. He finished 11-for-11 for 166 yards and a touchdown.

But Wake Forest's offense belonged to the rushing game. After much had been made about Navy's ability to control the game on the ground, Wake running back Kevin Harris rushed for 136 yards, his best game of the year by far (previous high was 36 yards against Vanderbilt in the final game of the regular season), and the Deacons outrushed the nation's leading rushing offense 239-221.

Saturday's loss was the third consecutive bowl loss for Navy. The last two losses were by an average of two points. First-year head coach Ken Niumatalolo is now 0-2 in bowl games as the head coach of Navy.

Despite the loss, though, Navy still had a great season. The Midshipmen capped their sixth consecutive season of at least eight wins and several young players got valuable playing experience, which will serve this team well in coming seasons.