2007 Poinsettia Bowl - Utah vs. Navy
Navy RB Reggie Campbell
Navy RB Reggie Campbell
Posted Dec 14, 2007

2007 Poinsettia Bowl Preview & Analysis - Utah vs. Navy

Utah (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)

Dec. 20, 9 p.m. ESPN

- Get Tickets for the Poinsettia Bowl
- The Big Story
Paul Johnson is off to Georgia Tech
- 2006 CFN Poinsettia Bowl Preview
WhatIfSports.com Poinsettia Bowl Predicted Box Score

Poinsettia Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

The first bowl game will be everything for the future for Navy. Will it be able to move on and be a yearly bowl participant without head coach Paul Johnson, or will the program go back to being, well, Navy?

This is the fifth straight bowl game in the most impressive and productive run in the program's long and storied history, but with Johnson off to coach Georgia Tech, it'll be up to
Ken Niumatalolo to take over and keep the train rolling. There won't be any major changes, Navy will still run the option as effective as ever, but will Niumatalolo be able to bring the same sort of magic that Johnson did, or will Utah continue to be one of the nation's best bowl teams?

National Rankings
Navy Utah
Total Offense
24th  444.58 ypg 81st  362.83 ypg
Total Defense
99th  438.17 ypg 15th  319.42 ypg
Scoring Offense
8th  39.92 ppg 74th  25.50 ppg
Scoring Defense
109th  36.50 ppg 3rd  15.58  ppg
Run Offense
1st  351.50 ypg 47th  163.67 ypg
Run Defense
80th  172.67 ypg 38th  131.33 ypg
Pass Offense
119th  93.08 ypg 85th  199.17 ypg
Pass Defense
106th  265.50 ypg 15th  188.08 ypg
Turnover Margin
63rd  -0.08 15th  0.83
at Temple W 30-19
at Rutgers L 41-24
Ball St
L 34-31 OT
Duke W 46-43
Air Force
W 31-20
at Pitt W 48-45 2OT
Wake Forest L 44-24

Delaware L 59-42
at N Dame W 46-44 3OT

at N Texas W 74-62
No Illinois
W 35-24
W 38-3
at Oregon St L 24-7
Air Force L 20-12
UCLA W 44-6
at UNLV L 27-0
Utah State W 34-18
at Louisville W 44-35

SDSU W 23-7
at TCU W 27-20

at Col St W 27-3
W 50-0
N Mexico W 28-10
at BYU
L 17-10
Position Ratings
relative to each other
N 5 highest
1 lowest
4 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 4
2 Receivers 2.5
3 O Line 3.5
2.5 D Line 4
2.5 Linebackers 3
2 Secondary 4.5
3.5 Spec Teams 4
2.5 Coaching 3.5

Utah has won six straight post-season games and one in each of the last four seasons, and it turned around its 2007 and got here with an even hotter run. Banged up, bruised, and with the season going nowhere, the Utes were 1-3 in late September after hitting rock-bottom with a 27-0 loss to UNLV. As the year went on, the team got better and better, beating Colorado State, Wyoming and New Mexico by a combined score of 105 to 13 over a three game span before losing a heart-wrenching 17-10 battle against BYU on a painful final Cougar drive.

By not making mistakes on offense, tightening up the defense, and getting tremendous pressure from the front seven, Utah turned into the team many expected it to be at the beginning of the year. While the early losses to Air Force and UNLV killed any shot of a Mountain West title, the Utes played harder and harder with each game and now looks to bring the same intensity and precision to San Diego for their first meeting with the Midshipmen.

Navy came up with yet another improbable, bizarre season with a 59-52 loss to Delaware the week before breaking the 43-game losing streak to Notre Dame. It survived a 74-62 shootout with North Texas and outlasted Pitt in two overtimes, but lost to Ball State in overtime and needed everything in the bag to get by Duke.

Phenomenal in some areas and flat-out awful in others, Navy is a team that's great at what it's good it. The defense was among the worst in the country, but the running game led the nation. The passing attack was 119 out of 119, but the offense averaged 39.92 points per game. The punting game is abysmal, but the overall return game might be the best in college football. Can the ground game be enough to overcome all the deficiencies against a hot Ute team? That'll be the big test for

Navy should be able to get its 300-350 rushing yards, but if Utah's offense is picking apart the Midshipmen secondary, the passing game isn't there to make a comeback. Utah already played an option team in Air Force, which Navy beat 31-20, and gave up 334 yards, but that seems like several years ago.
Niumatalolo has to get his offense, and it's now his offense, rolling well enough to keep Utah off the field.

It should be this simple; if Utah QB Brian Johnson is on, this could be a long, long opening game of the bowl season. If he makes a few mistakes, and Navy takes advantage of every break, this could be an extremely entertaining 60-minute battle. If nothing else, this will be the best Poinsettia Bowl ever. Of course, that's not saying much with only two played so far with TCU crushing Northern Illinois 37-7 last year and Navy running by Colorado State 51-30 two years ago.

Players to watch: Utah QB Brian Johnson suffered a broken collarbone in the season opener and was never quite right the rest of the way. Expected to play at a Mountain West Player of the Year level, as a perfect fit for the spread offense, he was inconsistent throughout with at least one interception in each of his last six games and a mere 81 rushing yards and one touchdown. It'll be his job to keep the chains moving, not turn the ball over, and take advantage of the soft Navy corners while letting the running game take care of the rest. As long as he's making good decisions, the Utah offense will be fine.

The Ute attack will revolve around junior RB Darrell Mack, who saved the season with five straight 100-yard running games, followed up by a 97-yard, two touchdown performance against Wyoming, to help guide the team after Johnson and the passing game started to struggle. With good power and a little but of wiggle past the line, he's an almost perfect back to blast away on a Navy D that's soft up the middle.

Navy will try to get the ground game moving with a mix of different looks and runs from the option, but it'll need a few big plays from its home-run hitter, senior Reggie Campbell. While only 5-6, he's a tough back who's a blur once he gets into the open. He ripped apart Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl two years ago with 116 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries, to go along with 89 yards and two scores on two catches and 85 punt return yards on four tries. He only ran for 464 yards and five scores this season, and caught passes for 213 yards with four touchdowns, but he averaged a whopping 7.25 yards per carry and 17.75 yards per catch. He's also a deadly punt and kickoff returner.

Navy's leading rusher, and the one who makes the offense go, is junior QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, a quick runner who has fought through injuries and remains the key decision-maker who spreads the ball around well. While he's a decent passer, if the Midshipmen get down and the running game isn't rolling, it could be up to junior Jarod Bryant to add a little more of a passing element. Bryant ran for 139 yards against Northern Illinois when Kaheaku-Enhada was out, but he's not the same runner. A tremendous athlete, he can do a little bit of everything including making plays on the move with his accurate arm.

Utah will win if... it can throw. The Navy defensive backs can tackle, but they can't cover worth a lick. Even the most average of passers can complete deep balls to their heart's content, and Johnson, if he gets on a roll, is better than average. He won't have to bomb away deep, but if he can dink and dunk on the outside, and let Mack rumble on the inside, Utah should be able to score at will. It shouldn't take too many points to win considering the Ute D hasn't allowed more than 20 since the first week of October.

Navy will win if... the running game gets rolling like it usually does. In Utah's four losses, the defense gave up 241 rushing yards to Oregon State, 334 to Air Force, 196 to UNLV and 155 to BYU. It didn't give up more than 136 in any of the eight wins, and while that might seem like it's too simplistic a fun stat, Air Force gave Navy the formula by controlling the time of possession, hitting a few key passes, and playing good run defense. Of course, Brian Johnson didn't play against the Falcons and Darrell Mack wasn't quite Darrell Mack yet, but considering Navy never ran for fewer than 254 yards, and averages 352 per game, this might not be a Utah walk in the park.

What will happen: Navy will get its rushing production, but it'll give up yards just as quickly. Utah's Louie Sakoda will be an MVP keeping Navy pinned deep with his punts, while connecting on at least three field goals. While Navy will want to prove it can win under
Niumatalolo, the defense simply won't be good enough to get the win.

Line: Utah -9 ... CFN Prediction:
Utah 34 ... Navy 23

Poinsettia Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More