Navy, White run past Towson, 41-13

Navy senior Shun White was late to the locker room following his team's 41-13 victory over Towson before 31,613 on Saturday in the season opener for both. He had been held up by a TV interview, so he had to sprint to join his teammates in the locker room.

It seemed appropriate, considering White had spent most of the day running. He finished with a school-record 348 yards rushing, on 19 carries.

His performance included three touchdowns--on runs of 87, 73 and 33 yards.

"Shun stepped up and I am very, very proud of him," Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "I told him we were going to give him the ball and ride him as long as we could...The great thing about Shun is that he has overcome so much through working hard. His overall development is something I am proud of. His performance today was not a surprise. We were waiting for it."

Said Towson coach Gordy Combs: "We had some difficulties with Shun White. We kind of figured out after the first quarter what they were trying to do, putting him in position as the pitch-man and also as the toss guy. We knew it and made some adjustments, we just couldn't stop it. I don't know what his 40-time is, but he was able to turn the corner on us real quick."

Towson was playing its first game against a division I-A opponent. And its game plan on defense focused on taking away Navy fullback Eric Kettani. The Tigers had two players focused on Kettani in the early part of the game.

That scheme, however, left the outside relatively open. White entered with a career high of 10 carries. He had four carries in Navy's first possession, including a 21-yard gain on the second play.

Navy led 7-0 late in the first quarter when White started to really get going. He had three carries on a four-play drive, including a 33-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.

The touchdown came on a play when Towson shifted from its 4-4 defense to a 4-3 scheme just before the snap. Once it shifted, quarterback Jarod Bryant audibled into a twirl option play that was designed to make the aggressive safety pay for reading the offense's initial movement--i.e. he practically ran himself out of the play because of Navy's misdirection.

The Tigers closed to 14-6 following a 22-yard touchdown pass from senior Sean Schaefer to junior Casey Cegles.

On the next play, however, White took a counter option pitch 87 yards for a touchdown.

The Tigers closed to 21-13 following a four-yard pass from Schaefer to senior Marcus Lee with 2 minutes 56 seconds left in the first half. By the time they got the ball again, however, they trailed by 18.

That's because Navy ended the first half with a 31-yard field goal from senior Matt Harmon. And it opened the second half with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to junior Bobby Doyle.

And White's dominance was such that even that play had his fingerprints on it.

White went in motion and it appeared Navy was going to run one of the toss sweeps that had helped White gain 223 yards to that point. The aggressive safety read White's motion and moved out of position. Meantime, the linebacker who lined up opposite Doyle also believed that White would get the ball, so he did not react as Doyle raced past him.

Doyle was wide open; the touchdown gave the Midshipmen a 31-13 lead with 11:37 left in the third quarter.

"The triple option is a selfless offense," Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Everyone has to be selfless and block. If you are not a selfless player, you cannot play in this offense."

White was not finished. He left briefly in the fourth quarter with a cramp, but entered the game for one more drive midway through the fourth quarter. On first down, White scored on a 73-yard run to put the game away.

His achievement--a school-record 348 yards--was announced over the public address system and he received a sustained ovation. White broke the record of 298 yards, set by Eddie Meyers against Syracuse in 1981. Meyers needed 42 attempts for his record.

"Every time I came back to the sideline I congratulated the offensive line, the wide receivers and the other backs," White said. "They did a great job of blocking."

Schaefer completed 29 of 47 passes for 330 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. But the Tigers were held scoreless in the second half.

Navy relied heavily on a 3-3-5, or "nickel," scheme, with sophomore Emmett Merchant as the nickel back and junior Ram Vela as the nickel linebacker. (Sophomore Travis Sudderth was the nickel linebacker in the first half; Vela played the second half.)

Junior Clint Sovie finished with a team-high eight tackles for Navy. He also was called on to defend a slot receiver several times and acquitted himself well in that role.

"We had a different attitude in the second half," Sovie said. "We now want to build off of that for next week."

Overall, though, the story clearly was White. Navy was without three slot backs: starter Andre Byrd (bruised left leg) and key reserves Greg Shinego (broken hand) and Corey James (sprained right ankle).

After the game, Niumatalolo mentioned the injuries as part of the reason White had so many carries. Niumatalolo also said that, as a coach, part of his job is to look for flaws in his players, so he can correct them.

When asked if White had shown any flaws in the opener, Niumatalolo paused.

"I don't think so," Niumatalolo said. "But I haven't watched the film yet."

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