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No secret – Navy will try to run early, often Saturday

Chris Hine | Friday, November 14, 2008

Navy is going to run the football Saturday, and it will run it a lot – the Midshipmen don’t try to hide that from anyone.

“It’s not a secret, we’re going to run the ball,” Navy fullback Eric Kettani said. “They know when we get the ball, we’re running the ball.”

Nevertheless, even though its opponent always knows what to prepare for, Navy’s option-run attack is the second-best running game in the nation, averaging 308 yards per game.

And in nine games this season, Navy (6-3) has yet to score under 20 points in a game, even its three losses.

“I think they’re so good in their system and it’s so unorthodox, that everyone in the country knows what’s coming,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “It’s the same thing. Everyone knows what’s coming. But at the end of the game almost every week, doesn’t matter who they play against, usually they have 300 yards rushing. It’s just what they do.”

But last year, Navy did something it hadn’t done in 43 years – beat Notre Dame. Navy came into Notre Dame Stadium and downed the Irish 46-44 in three overtimes using the same rushing attack the Irish will see Saturday.

“Honestly, that’s my most memorable game that I’ve played in my entire life,” Kettani said. “It was a great win.”

Kettani was Navy’s leading rusher in that game, running for 70 yards on 20 carries, and this season, he’s picked up 673 yards and scored two touchdowns.

“One of the bases for this offense is to have a bruising fullback,” Weis said. “And Kettani definitely fits the bill. He’s 6-foot-1, 233 pounds, senior, veteran, runs hard, physical player and really is the centerpiece for this offense, along with the quarterback.”

Last year’s quarterback, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, has been plagued by injury this season, but substitutes Jarod Bryant and Ricky Dobbs haven’t missed a beat, and have helped keep Navy one of the most efficient rushing attacks in the nation.

“We run the ball, we’re Navy,” Kettani said. “We’ve had some of the top rushers in the nation the past few years so we plan on giving them a run for their money.”

This year Navy has had a change in coach, but not in style. Paul Johnson, Navy’s head coach from 2002-07, left for Georgia Tech, but Navy stayed in-house for its next hire – Ken Niumatalolo, Navy’s former offensive coordinator.

“That’s the good thing. It was an in-house change,” Kettani said. “So most of the things are the same. He’s a different character and a different head coach than coach Johnson was, but practices are the same, games are the same, nothing really too drastic has changed.”

While Kettani said beating Notre Dame was the greatest football moment in his life, he insisted that Navy doesn’t do anything extra to get pumped up for the Irish.

“We do the same thing every game. It doesn’t matter if we’re going to play a Div. I-AA team or if we’re going to play Notre Dame,” Kettani said. “We’re a team that does the same things game in and game out.”