2008 EagleBank Bowl Preview - Navy vs. WF

Posted Dec 18, 2008

And we're off with the 2008/2009 bowl season starting with Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry and Wake Forest taking on Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Navy in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl. Check out the prediction, breakdown and more.

2008 EagleBank Bowl Preview

ake Forest (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)

Dec. 20, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN

$1 million  Location: RFK Stadium, Washington D.C.

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2008 EagleBank Bowl History, Player Profiles, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
Wake Forest Navy
Total Offense
103rd  300.25 ypg 59th  361.67 ypg
Total Defense
19th  106.16ypg 51st  341.83 ypg
Scoring Offense
97th  20.33 ppg 48th  27.83 ppg
Scoring Defense
17th  18.25 ppg 37th  21.42 ppg
Run Offense
100th  111.58 ypg 1st  298.33 ypg
Run Defense
  21st  116.08 ypg 31st  126.17 ypg
Pass Offense
84th  188.67 ypg 118th  63.33 ypg
Pass Defense
28th  184.25 ypg 76th  215.67 ypg
Turnover Margin
3rd  1.33 3rd  1.33
Wake Forest
at Baylor W 41-13
Ole Miss W 30-28
at Florida St W 12-3
Navy L 24-17
Clemson W 12-7
at Maryland L 26-0
at Miami L 16-10
Duke W 33-30 OT
Virginia W 28-17
at NC State L 21-17
Boston Coll L 24-21
Vanderbilt W 23-10
Towson W 41-13
at Ball State L 35-23
at Duke L 41-31
Rutgers W 23-21
at W For W 24-117
at A Force W 33-27
Pitt L 42-21
SMU W 34-7
Temple W 33-27 OT
Notre Dame L 27-21
at No. Illinois W 16-0
Army (Phil) W 34-0
Position Ratings
relative to each other
W 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 4
2.5 RBs 5
2.5 Receivers 1
3 O Line 3.5
4 D Line 3
4.5 Linebackers 4
4.5 Secondary 2
3 Spec Teams 3
4.5 Coaching 4

What the world ... needs now … is a bowl … another bowl.
We already did this, but at least it’s a rematch of a decent game to kick off the 2008/2009 bowl season. Navy beat Wake Forest 24-17 on September 27th as part of the flaky start for the Midshipmen. They were blown out by Ball State, lost to Duke by 10, and then managed to turn things around by beating Rutgers, Wake Forest, and Air Force in a surprising three-game stretch that ended up defining the season. Against the Demon Deacons the first time around, Navy cranked out 292 yards and three scores, held on to the ball for 36:43, and forced six Wake Forest turnovers. Wake Forest only ran for 43 yards and Riley Skinner threw four interception, and it was still tight late. 
For the most part, these are two teams that thrive on being perfect. If the turnover margin goes the other way, they usually lose; there’s little margin for error with the way these to play. Navy simply doesn’t have the athletes or the talent of most D-I/FBS teams, but with an offense that relies on controlling the clock to keep the defense off the field, and a defense that busts its tail each and every play, the system works.        
Head coach
Ken Niumatalolo kept the music rolling after Paul Johnson took his act to Georgia Tech, and while the running game might not be quite as devastating as it was in years past, it still led the nation for an NCAA record fourth year in a row. This is the sixth straight bowl game for the program, going 2-3 in the last five, and while beating Wake Forest again might not be the BCS Championship, it would still be a huge feather in the program’s cap. It would also prove that things aren’t going to change much going forward under Niumatalolo.
Wake Forest doesn’t exactly take bowl games lightly, either. It wasn’t all that long ago that the program was just happy to go somewhere, and while the inaugural EagleBank Bowl might not be what the team had in mind considering it was the Orange Bowl two years ago, it’s still a nice prize to get the program’s third straight bowl bid. Before last year, Wake Forest had never gone to two bowl games in back-to-back years.
While the offense fizzled at times and the defense struggled against offensively challenged teams like Duke, Maryland and Boston College, Wake Forest once again relied on a good run defense, an excellent defensive back seven, and no turnovers … except against Navy. The Demon Deacon D led the nation with 35 takeaways, and considering the offense averages a mere 300 yards per game, it’ll have to force Navy mistakes to win.

Navy does the same thing it always does, but who can stop it? Like Wake Forest, the Midshipmen don’t turn the ball over, finishing tied with the Demon Deacons for third in the nation in turnover margin. Most impressively, the defense stepped up big-time over the last half of the season, shutting down SMU in a 34-6 win and shutting out Northern Illinois and Army teams that had everything to play for. It’s this simple. If the running game is humming and the defense stays off the field, Navy can play with anyone. If Navy has to start throwing or if teams can go on long, sustained drives, there are problems.

It’s the first EagleBank Bowl and it’s the first game of the bowl season. Navy is always worth watching because of its fun offense, and Wake Forest has some big-time playmakers on defense and plays tight games with just about everyone. It should be competitive throughout, and it should be a nice way to ease your way into the 34-game glut of fun.
Players to watch: It’s the final game for soon-to-be first round draft pick and Butkus Award winner, Aaron Curry. The Wake Forest senior linebacker made 101 tackles on the year with 15 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, and while his ability in pass coverage won’t be used much in this game, he’s a do-it-all 240-pound playmaker who’ll be all over the field. He came up with 10 tackles in the first meeting against Navy and he could potentially double that now that he knows what he’s doing against this offense. His primary responsibility will be to make sure fullback Eric Kettani doesn’t get rumbling again after he gained 175 yards on 19 carries in the first meeting.
The big key for Navy is the health of senior QB
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who had problems all season long with a hamstring injury. In the first game, he only ran for 30 yards but he scored twice. Able to come back for the Army game, he was hardly his old self without the same burst and quickness, but he was able to flawlessly direct the attack to a 34-0 win. With the extra time off to heal, he should be as good as he’s been all season long.
The home-run hitter
Kaheaku-Enhada has to make sure gets the ball in space is senior speedster Shun White, who averaged 8.6 yards per carry rushing for 1,021 yards and eight touchdowns. Most of his production came in the first three games, and he was held to 20 yards on 11 carries by Wake Forest, but when he gets the ball outside on the move, he’s a difference maker who can score from anywhere on the field
For Wake Forest’s offense, this is a chance at redemption for junior QB Riley Skinner, who threw four interceptions in the first meeting to go along with a season-high 270 passing yards. He had a decent year, but he wasn’t quite as efficient as he was in years past and he didn’t progress into any more of a playmaker. He was fantastic in the last two bowl games, throwing for 271 yards in the Orange Bowl loss to Louisville, and completing 29-of-38 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown with an interception in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl win over Connecticut.

Wake Forest will win if... it doesn’t turn the ball over. Curry and the Demon Deacon run defense will keep Navy’s offense from going crazy, but if the mistakes start flowing from the offense, there will be problems … again. The Demon Deacons only threw seven interceptions on the year, with four coming against Navy and two against Boston College, while of the 12 fumbles on the year, seven came in the first four games with two against the Midshipmen. Even with the six turnovers, Wake almost beat Navy the first time around. With time to prepare for the option on defense, Wake will win as long as the offense is efficient and very, very conservative.
Navy will win if
... the defense stops the run. Wake Forest has a decent passing game when Skinner is on, but it’ll want to run the ball to try to control the clock and keep from making a slew of mistakes. And there’s the problem; Wake Forest can’t run. However, it’s 5-1 on the year when it runs for over 100 yards. The Navy defense has to own third downs and it has to do that by forcing Wake Forest into second and long, third and long situations. Navy was able to beat Rutgers and Air Force even thought those two teams ran well, but it’ll be tough to allow too many yards on the ground against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons ran for a mere 43 yards the first time around.
What will happen: Wake Forest won’t screw it up this time around. Navy will get its licks in, the offense is too effective to be completely shut down for long stretches, especially with
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada back at the helm, but the Demon Deacons aren’t going to turn the ball over six times again, and they’ll have an efficient, effective day from Skinner on the way to a grinding, hard-fought win

Line: Wake Forest -3 ... CFN Prediction: Wake Forest 23 … Navy 17      

2008 EagleBank Bowl History, Player Profiles, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More