5 Thoughts - 2008 EagleBank Bowl
Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner
Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner
Posted Dec 20, 2008

Wake Forest beats Navy 29-19 - 5 Thoughts on the 2008 EagleBank Bowl.

5 Thoughts ... 2008 EagleBank Bowl

ake Forest 29 ... Navy 19

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1) It's not a tough equation for Navy and its style. If it doesn't win the running battle and it doesn't control the clock, it's not going to win too many games. Wake Forest outgained the Midshipmen 239 to 221 on the ground and held the ball for 30:07 to 29:53. The talent level isn't there to beat BCS conference teams if everything turns out to be even. Navy's offense sputtered a bit in the first half, but the defense did a great job of holding the Demon Deacons down. Once the running game didn't control things in the second half, the defense started to wear down a bit and wasn't as effective. Wake Forest had time to prepare for the Navy offense and the defense did a great job of being disciplined, and the offense was mistake-free in the second half and Skinner was flawless. Navy had to dominate offensively and force turnovers defensively and couldn't do either. - Pete Fiutak

2) The play of the game: Wake Forest's Alphonso Smith picks off a lazy pass from Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada at the Wake 2, late in the first half, with Navy looking to build on its 13-0 lead. Had Navy increased its lead to 16-0, Wake probably would have stayed on the canvas. The Demon Deacons were horribly flat and listless for the first 26 minutes of play, but when they got a get-out-of-jail-free card, they finally began to care about this contest. By the end of the game, Wake--not Navy--was flying around the field with reckless abandon. One important interception turned the tide in RFK Stadium. - Matthew Zemek

3) Where was Kevin Harris all season? Wake Forest sure chose an odd time to turn the junior into the workhorse of the ground game. After struggling all year to establish a running game and ranking 100th nationally, the Deacons gave the start to Harris in the EagleBank Bowl, his first since 2006. He responded by running for 136 tough yards, the school’s highest total in over a year, on 24 carries. While Harris doesn’t have the elusiveness of Josh Adams or the big-play potential of Brandon Pendergrass, he’s got a physical, north-south running style that simply wore out the Navy defense in the second half. If Wake can solve its problems on the offensive line, the returns of Harris, Adams, and Pendergrass in 2009 mean the running game should get back to being among the most productive in the ACC. - Richard Cirminiello
4) Even in defeat, the nation got to see why first-year coach Ken Niumatalolo is such a good steward of Navy football. With 38 seconds left in regulation, Navy trailed 29-19 but had the ball at the Wake 32. It was at this point that Niumatalolo made the kind of move few coaches (Mike Holmgren in Super Bowl XL, cough, cough) are smart enough to make. He ordered a long field goal attempt. With a made kick, Navy would have had half a minute to recover an onside kick and still mount an attempt at a game-tying touchdown. While most coaches chase the touchdown to the very end of a game, Niumatalolo thought about winning (or at least tying). Yes, the long field goal was no good, but that shouldn't take away from the quality of the decision. Moves like that have defined the first Polynesian head coach to don the headsets in FBS competition. Navy will continue to win with Ken Niumatalolo pacing the sidelines in Annapolis. - Matthew Zemek

5). Now that Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry have completed their brilliant careers in Winston-Salem, look for junior CB Brandon Ghee to be the next star of the Wake Forest defense. Overshadowed by his teammates the last two seasons, Ghee showed in the EagleBank Bowl why pro scouts are already drooling at the prospects of getting their hands on him. A solid 6-0 and 191 pounds, he’s got legit 4.3 speeds and a proven track record as a top cover guy. A game against Navy, however, also shined a light on his ability to defend the run and deliver the payload. An intimidating hitter by cornerback standards, Ghee had six tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, while seemingly always being around the ball. He’s already getting favorable projections from NFL types, and could shoot all the way up to the first day if he returns to school and spends a full season as the headliner of the Deacon D. -
Richard Cirminiello