Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Wonder Neverland

The Great Big Digout
Record snowfall closes schools, leaves roads treacherous
December 21, 2009

As the region continued to emerge from the weekend's record December snowstorm, much of Anne Arundel County remained shut down today. Public schools, Anne Arundel Community College and courthouses were closed. City and county government opened late this morning, and most federal workers were excused from going to the office. And plowing crews struggled to clear roadways. "I would urge county residents to exercise caution," County Executive John R. Leopold said this morning. "The roads are still treacherous." Leopold said it could take until tomorrow night before all residential streets are passable. He said the county has 300 people and 200 trucks working 12-hour shifts to clear the roads. "We're doing everything we can," he said. As Saturday's snowy whiteout gave way to a sun-sparkled world yesterday morning, locals began the next stage of coping with the biggest snowstorm in years: digging out. Plows scraped major roads while, up and down residential streets, families armed with snow gear cleared cars, driveways and walkways, tossing showers of powder into the air. Elisabeth Hulette, Staff Writer, The Annapolis Capital

It is one of those do these little critters survive the great outdoors, especially when everything gets covered with a beach-thick blanket of snow. As a follow up to the Finding Neverland fauna inventory, the principals right after our record snowfall were: the Gray Squirrel and Black Squirrel (1), Blue Jay, House Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco. I heard a crow calling from the junipers in the next door neighbor's yard (2), and caught glimpses of one flying far off in the sky beyond our backyard fence. Two weekends before, we had a little bit of snow fall, and a Carolina Wren picking at our suet feeder (note the feeder on the right of the pole in the photograph to the left). The birds seem to come in waves, leaving the feeder alone most of the day. The squirrel dig down into the the snow, and peak out and about...constantly being vigilant. Like in summer, the messy blue jays are a part of the food cycle for the squirrels, scattering seeds from the feeder above down to the snow below where the ground feeders find them and feast.

It was a good weekend for being buttoned down in our house. The snow just kept falling and falling - it started around 7:00 Friday evening right as we got back home after finishing Christmas shopping, was more than a blanket by Saturday morning, and continued to come down throughout the rest of the day. Even after digging out the front door landing and rock step walk down our front yard, and clearing off the cars parked on the street on Saturday, it was more than worth the money to pay four fellows who knocked on the door Sunday morning for a half hour of their services clearing off the drive way and sidewalks, while I again cleaned the snow off of the cars. Darrel - who also has a lawn business in summer - his son Darrel, his brother, and another fellow named Larry (unlike the the three brothers from the Newhart television show)(3), said I was the first customer of the day. It is funny how a number of my neighbors complimented me later about the time I saved compared to what they were then facing after having themselves turned down the crew earlier....and asking how much I had paid....and after barely making a dent in their own piles of snow, commenting that they would catch the crew the next time they came around.

(1) The Black Squirrel can be traced back to 18 Canadian squirrels that were released at the National Zoo during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. For more information, see the Washington Post article at:

(2) A couple of months ago while we had a work team retreat in western Maryland. Rick, one of my co-workers, has been a birder since 7, so we agreed to show up at the retreat with binoculars and go birding. After arriving and having dinner, we planned to get up early for a bird "watching" walk.

Early morning rendezvous'd
and so learn'd
bird watching is more about listening
than looking

(3) The Darrel's and Larry were as unlike the three brothers Larry and Darrel's from the Newhart Show, as a sitcom set in rural New England Vermont is from real-world Mid-Atlantic Maryland on a snowy weekend in December. Hard work, cash payment, and a satisfied patron with a cleared driveway and sidewalk, with not a care for the rest of the day. For a taste of the fictional Vermont Larry and Darrel's, go to the link at:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Joyous Light Hail Gladdening Light

Iucunda lux tu gloriae, fons luminis de lumine, beate Iesu caelitus a Patre sancto prodiens. Fulgor diei lucidus solisque lumen occidit, et nos ad horam vesperam te confitemur cantico. Laudamus unicum Deum, Patrem potentem, Filium cum Spiritu Paraclito in Trinitatis gloria. O digne linguis qui piis lauderis omni tempore, Fili Dei, te saecula vitae datorem personent. Amen (1).

I have good memories of going to church when I was young. Even with questions about why we have to go, I can remember my parents loading us kids up in the backseat of a Chrysler or Oldsmobile sedan every Sunday morning, dressed in slacks with white shirts and ties. Afterward, when walking back to the car, we would ask whether we had been good, and were affirmed by Mom touching our shoulder blades and commenting she could feel the angel wings sprouting.

I am old enough to remember when the Mass was said in Latin - young enough to miss the option to learn Latin in high school - and when the transition to the Second Vatican Council changes happened - oh, so that is what that means in English. Even though I didn't follow what all the meaning to the ceremonies were about, Midnight Mass was a time of wonder....the choir in the loft behind us, the candles burning, the packed pews, staring back up the center aisle to see the colored vestments and procession walking forward, and then waiting in anticipation between the time when the incense were lit and when the scent reached me a short time later.

Jumping ahead decades later, a friend mailed us a copy of a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD for a gift. I remember when turning onto Conifer Drive in north Corvallis when I first heard Veni Veni (O Come O Come Emmanuel) play for the first time, I was caught off guard by a rush of memories from past Christmas Eves that flew through my head - echoing voices blending together... Latin verse... a clanking censer swinging at the end of a bronze chain, clouds of incense smoke rising up from in front of the altar... the scent eventually reaching my nose - that was Christmas Midnight Mass. Good memories, memories with emotions.

Two weeks ago, Jan and I went to a Memorial Mass for the wife of a friend and colleague of mine. It snowed heavily as we drove from Annapolis to St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Columbia, but regardless of the weather, many friends from work were there to show Charlie their support. He had graciously walked a long dark path for better than a year - telecommuting so he could help Jane while trying to keep up with his work, rarely showing the strains of the stress...a gentleman at all times.

The parish priest personalized the Mass because he knew Jane and understood what motivated her - his remarks during the homily mentioned how she was well-known for her dedicated service to the children of the church. In the last weeks of her life, I knew from Charlie that nothing was going to keep Jane from doing what she loved....she had just enough energy to prepare her lessons and work with the kids - then spend the rest of the week resting and recovering before repeating the cycle. It didn't seem strange to me that Jane would do that, because Charlie and I had compared notes off and on since we have gotten to know each other the past three years - given that both of our wives were in the same line of business.

There is something about children and their ways that is lost on most adults - it seems that their mission is to try to make kids into little grown-ups as fast as they can. On-the-other-hand, it is the kind of grown-ups who get down on knees and meet little ones eye-to-eye, build towers made out of blocks together, read stories... are the ones who show them what Jesus looks like - with skin on. From what I know of Jane from Charlie, she knew kids in that way.

G.K. Chesterton, an English writer who lived around the beginning of the 20th Century, was a thoughtful social commentator when he wrote in 1908 with a remarkable understanding of the kind of child-like relationship we adults should all have with life and its taking care of the needs of children in ways that children would want: "The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

There is something new about the old icon painted by Andrei Rublev showing the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - seated around a table (2). The old part being knowledge of the Trinity that goes as far back as countless Masses attended and prayers spoken, and the new part being the open place at the table - a welcoming scene giving an invitation for the viewer to join them. That appeals to me, the Holy welcoming the vulgar - me. Maybe that is what also appeals to a new generation of worshipers and musicians like Chris Tomlin - the reworking of the old Phos Hilaron hymn... making it into something new... making it a scene for what we can have now: "on earth as it is in heaven." And maybe what the new hymn will be when we sing in times future, past our time here, when we go to a room prepared for us (3).

I played the new Phos Hilaron (4) over and over on my drive to work the day I learned that Jane had died, with a picture in my head of a new room occupied by the three inviting hosts, welcoming a new guest to the fourth place at the table.

Hail Gladdening Light, sun so bright
Jesus Christ, end of night, alleluia
Hail Gladdening Light, Eternal Bright
In evening time, 'round us shine, alleluia, alleluia

Hail Gladdening Light, such joyous Light
O Brilliant Star, forever shine, alleluia, alleluia

We hymn the Father, we hymn the Son
We hymn the Spirit, wholly Divine
No one more worthy of songs to be sung
To the Giver of Life, all glory is Thine

(1) Phos Hilaron (Φῶς Ἱλαρόν) is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in New Testament Greek. Often referred to by its Latin title Lumen Hilare it has been translated into English as 'Hail Gladdening Light' or 'O Gladsome/Joyous Light'. It is the earliest known Christian hymn recorded outside of the Bible that is still being used today. The hymn is featured in the vespers of the Byzantine liturgy used by the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions, as well as being included in some modern Anglican and Lutheran liturgies. Information about the history of the hymn comes from:

(2) Andrei Rublev probably lived in the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra near Moscow under Nikon of Radonezh, who became hegumen after the death of Sergii Radonezhsky (1392). The first mention of Rublev is in 1405 when he decorated icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin in company with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets. His name was the last of the list of masters as the junior both by rank and by age. Theophanes was an important Byzantine master who moved to Russia, and is considered to have trained Rublev. The only work authenticated as entirely his is the icon of the Trinity, ca. 1410, currently in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. It is based upon an earlier icon known as the "Hospitality of Abraham" (illustrating Genesis 18). Rublev removed the figures of Abraham and Sarah from the scene, and through a subtle use of composition and symbolism changed the subject to focus on the Mystery of the Trinity. A few more details about Rublev can be found at:

(3) John 14:3.

(4) You can access a free streaming audio of a recitation of Phos Hilaron (Track 10) and Chris Tomlin's Joyous Light (Track 11) at:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Heals Over Head - Navy 17, Army 3

It was a beautiful day in Philadelphia. The skies were clear, not all that much wind, and temperatures were not so cold that with a few layers of clothes, dry chemical hand warmers, and a blanket over the lap, we were fixed up and in great shape until dark. As the Cadets first and then the Mids took their turns marching onto the field before the stands were full, and a few spirit spots ran on the big screen, a great video was run by CBS before the game. We didn't catch it until today, and you can catch it at:
It pretty much tells the story, without a score.
As of yesterday evening, it is now eight straight Navy wins over the Army Black Knights. For all the bravado by the Cadets, their not-too-bad Spirit Spots that outdid those crafted by the Mids, and
general attitude, the outcome turned out the same as the past seven years. The Washington Post summarized the 110th Army-Navy football meeting this way: And so, an afternoon that began with a bit of Army sass -- a goat's head, similar to the one worn by Bill, Navy's mascot, was batted around the section of the stadium that housed the Corps of Cadets -- ended as so many recent Army-Navy games have. In the final minutes, the Midshipmen in the stands waved brooms and chanted, "I believe that we will win!" Camile Powell, Sunday, December 13, 2009
It was great to be back home in our house after the game - warmed up on the bus ride back to Annapolis, no anxiety about the outcome, the Commander in Chief Trophy assured, a guaranteed trip to the White House Rose Garden (unlike the absence of roses for another favorite team; see Disappointment and No Consolation). The emotions for Army have got to be for a world turned upside down - there are now generations of classes that have only experienced losses. The Navy Class of 2006, the class before our son was a plebe, was able to bask in four years of nothing but wins over Army - the same now for the Class of 2010 - and all the classes in between.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tales from the Perilous Realm

Speaking of college end-of-season tradition games - there is none greater than the annual contest between the United States Military and Naval Academies. As sport writer John Feinstein (1) put it in his book: Civil War: Army Vs. Navy-A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry "Although Army-Navy may not decide a national championship anymore, it means just as much to the players as it ever has..." and to the rest of the Brigade of Midshipmen and the Corps of Cadets. So no matter how successful the season has been, and regardless that the second Navy win in three years helped Charlie Weiss find the exit door from Nortre Dame, it will be for naught, if the Midshipmen don't come through for their eighth win in a row against Army. But even beyond this football season's perils, the life of Midshipmen - soon to be commissioned naval officers - carries some degree of what is known as errantry: the state of roving in search of chivalrous adventure. Real life perils in uncertain times and far away realms - Philadelphia football fields, foreign seas, exotic mountainous lands and deserts, and orbiting space stations.

I have been reading slowly through a new compilation of J.R.R. Tolkien short stories and poems in Tales from the Perilous Realm. Great adventure short stories: Roverandom, Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major, and Leaf by Niggle. But it is the poems of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil that leave me smiling. One of my favorites is Errantry which is copied below with photographs of a real voyage of the U.S. Coast Guard tall ship Eagle (2). We were able to join our son at the end of the second leg of the trip that started in Mazatlan, Mexico up the Pacific Coast to San Diego and then to Astoria, Oregon where we were taken out by a Coast Guard boat as the cutter came into port (3). With a little imagination, the pictures match the verse - describing a young mariner who wanders in a gilded gondola from the end of an era past. Though the rivalry of Army-Navy is legendary, so there are all the service academies - but then so is the hospitality - or is it chivalry instead? (see: Post-season Postscripts)


There was a merry passenger,
a messenger, a mariner:
he built a gilded gondola
to wander in and had in her
load of yellow oranges
and porridge for his provender;
he perfumed her with marjoram
and cardamom and lavender.

He called the winds of Argosies
with cargoes in to carry him
across the rivers seventeen
that lay between to tarry him.
He landed all in loneliness
where stonily the pebbles on
the running river Derrilyn
goes merrily for ever on.
He journeyed then through meadow-lands
to shadow-land that dreary lay,
and under hill and over hill
went roving still a weary way.

He sat and sang a melody,
his errantry a tarrying;
he begged a pretty butterfly
that fluttered by to marry him.
She scorned him and she scoffed at him,
she laughed at him unpitying;
so long he studied wizardry
and sigaldry and smithying.

He wove a tissue airy thin
to snare her in; to follow her
he made him beetle-leatherwing
and feather wing of swallow hair.
He caught her in bewilderment
with filament of spider-thread;
He made her soft pavilions
of lilies and a bridal bed
of flowers and of thistle-down
to nestle down and rest her in;
and silken webs of filmy white,
and silver light he dressed her in.

He threaded gems and necklaces,
but recklessly she squandered them
and fell to bitter quarrelling,
then sorrowing he wandered on,
and there he left her withering
as shivering he fled away;
with windy weather following
on swallow-wing he sped away.

He passed the achipelagoes,
where yellow grows the marigold,
with countless silver fountains are,
and mountains are of fairy-gold.
He took to war and foraying,
a-harrying beyond the sea,
and roaming over Belmary,
and Thellamie and Fantasie.

He made a shield and morion,
of coral and of ivory.
A sword he made of emerald,
and terrible his rivalry,
with elven knights of Aerie
and Faerie, with paladins
that golden-haired, and shining-eyed
came riding by, and challenged him.

Of crystal was his habergeon,
his scabbard of chalcedony,
with silver tipped and plenilune,
his spear was hewn of ebony.
His javelins were of malachite
and stalactite - he brandished them,
and went and fought the dragon flies,
of Paradise, and vanquished them.

He battled with the Dumbledors,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb,
and running home on sunny seas,
in ship of leaves and gossamer,
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up,
and burnished up his panoply.

He tarried for a little while,
in little isles that lonely lay,
and found their naught but blowing grass.
And so at last, the only way
he took, and turned, and coming home
with honeycomb, to memory
his message came, and errand too!
In derring-do and glamoury,
he had forgot them, journeying
and tourneying, a wanderer.

So now he must depart again
and start again his gondola,
for ever still a messenger,
a passenger, a tarrier,
a roving as a feather does,
a weather-driven mariner.

J.R.R. Tolkien, 1933

(1) John Feinstein's latest article on the Army-Navy tradition can be found at:

(2) For more details about the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Eagle, go to the link at:

(3) For details about the Pacific Coast trip with written and video interviews, go to the link at:


Post-season Postscript #1

Navy Cruises in Texas Bowl, Beating Missouri 35-13 to Wrap Up 10-win Season

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 1, 2010

HOUSTON -- The contrast between the players from Navy and Missouri was noticeable throughout the week, as they went through the various activities that led up to the Texas Bowl. The Tigers dwarfed their Midshipmen counterparts; Missouri's 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback was bigger than nearly all of Navy's defensive players.

But when it came time to play the game on Thursday at Reliant Stadium, that didn't matter. The Midshipmen executed better on both sides of the ball, and their star player, junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, had a sensational performance. The result was a convincing 35-13 victory -- Navy's first over a team from the Big 12 since 1965.

"That's us every week. There's no team that we play that's not bigger than us," Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "All the intangibles that people talk about in sports, it's real with our team: determination, discipline, heart. Our guys play hard. We're a team, we're going to respect others, but we're not going to back down from anybody. . . . We're just like 11 hyenas. We're going to take down an elephant sooner or later."

It was an entirely fitting way for the season to end for the Midshipmen -- who went 10-4 to tie the school record for victories held by the 1905 and 2004 teams -- and the senior class. Coming into the game, the 32 seniors had already accomplished so many different things: They won 34 games, including two at Notre Dame, and four straight Commander-in-Chief's trophies. Yet they were 0-3 in bowl games.

Navy was able to end that streak thanks in part to Dobbs, who was named the game's most valuable player. He rushed for a Navy-bowl record 166 yards (his fifth-straight 100-yard game) and scored three times (which extended his NCAA record for single-season rushing touchdowns by a quarterback to 27). He completed 9 of 14 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, and became only the third quarterback in Navy history to surpass 1,000 yards in both rushing and passing in the same season. He also lost two fumbles, including one in the end zone.

"Ricky is exceptional," said Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel, whose defense hadn't given up more than 131 rushing yards to a team since late September.

The game was billed as a contrast between high-powered offenses: Navy's run-based triple option and Missouri's pass-happy spread.

The Midshipmen -- who went no-huddle for stretches, something they had not done before -- held the ball for nearly 41 minutes and had 515 yards of total offense. They relied heavily on their slotbacks, who combined for 24 carries and 182 yards. Sophomore Marcus Curry ran for 109 yards and a touchdown, and also caught five passes for 97 yards. Senior Bobby Doyle caught a three-yard touchdown pass.

The Tigers (8-5) made a handful of big plays, but failed to get into the end zone after the first minute of the game. On the second play from scrimmage, senior wide receiver Danario Alexander -- who led the nation in receiving yards per game -- caught a short pass well inside his own half and turned it into a 58-yard touchdown. It was Alexander's eighth touchdown of the season of more than 50 yards, and it gave Missouri a 7-0 lead less than 30 seconds into the game.

"For us as a defense, the one thing that we really embody is perseverance," senior linebacker Ram Vela said. "We've been down in situations like that before, so it's nothing new to us."

For much of the game, the Midshipmen employed a new defensive package that they called "Tiger," in which they used two down linemen and five defensive backs. That seemed to fluster Missouri sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who completed 15 of 31 passes for 291 yards and had two interceptions -- his first since Halloween. Navy also sacked Gabbert four times.

During one sequence shortly before halftime, Gabbert twice tried to find Alexander (six catches for 137 yards) in the end zone, but both times the Navy secondary broke up the pass. Late in the third quarter, senior linebacker Craig Schaefer (Robinson) sacked Gabbert on third and goal from the 2-yard line.

In the game's final minutes, Navy safety Wyatt Middleton came up with an interception in the red zone and returned it 52 yards. That pick gave Niumatalolo a chance to put some of the team's seldom-used seniors on the field.

Fullback Jack Hatcher -- who spent most of his four-year career on the scout team and had yet to play a single snap in a game -- came in and got a carry (he was hit quickly for a four-yard loss). Quarterback Greg Zingler (Severna Park) -- whose main role this season was as the holder on field goals and extra points -- was under center for the victory formation, and when the game ended, he was the one who got to raise the ball high into the air.

"I think this game in a lot of ways embodied kind of the fighting spirit, the heart of the team," said senior linebacker Ross Pospisil, who led Navy with nine tackles and an interception. "It's been a privilege to play with these guys. It will always be an honor."

Midshipmen notes: Sophomore Brady DeMell started at center for Navy in place of sophomore Eric Douglass, who was academically ineligible. . . . The crowd at Reliant Stadium appeared much smaller than the paid attendance figure of 69,441. . . . Jack Lengyel, who served as athletic director at both Navy and Missouri, and former president George H.W. Bush, who was wearing a Navy hat, were on the field for the coin flip.

Post-season Postscript #2

Battle Plan Helps Mids Sink Tigers

By BILL WAGNER, Annapolis Capital Staff Writer
Published 01/01/10

HOUSTON, TEXAS – It was obvious to every scribe in the press box and all the fans in the stands that Navy out-schemed and out-coached Missouri last night in the Texas Bowl.

Navy’s coaching staff had the players well prepared and introduced a couple new wrinkles that threw off Missouri and proved crucial to a surprisingly lopsided 35-13 victory before an announced crowd of 69,441 at Reliant Stadium.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper unveiled a no-huddle offense that had never previously been seen in the triple-option era. Sitting in the press box high atop Reliant Stadium, Jasper could survey the Missouri defensive alignment before calling the play and having it relayed to quarterback Ricky Dobbs.

Dobbs has at times had difficulty against opponents that shifted before the snap and did other things to throw off his reads. Going no-huddle allowed Jasper to make the checks and make the Midshipmen had a good play and that the ball went the right way.

“Honestly, it was a way to help Ricky. We thought they might be changing looks and moving around and Ricky has struggled with that all year long,” Jasper said. “This was a big game in which we could not afford to make any mistakes. We wanted to make sure we got off to a good start on offense.”

Navy did just that as Dobbs directed two long drives on the team’s initial two possessions of the game. The first came up empty when Dobbs fumbled at the Missouri 20-yard line. However, the second produced a touchdown that tied the game at seven after the Midshipmen ran the triple-option to perfection during an impressive 15-play, 90-yard march.

With Dobbs not having to worry about making checks at the line of scrimmage and focusing solely on his reads in the option, Navy rolled up 515 total yards and made a proud Missouri defense look silly at times. The Tigers came into the contest ranked 12th nationally in rushing defense, but were gouged for 385 yards on the ground.

“Going no-huddle was a way to keep them off-balance as well. They had never seen us do that on film so we figured it might surprise them a bit,” Jasper said. “But mainly we just wanted to help Ricky out as far as the play-calling.”

Considering Navy had never shown a no-huddle look during the current triple-option era, Jasper was asked what made the coaching staff come up with the idea. Jasper revealed that he and Niumatalolo considered using no-huddle against Northern Illinois last season when Dobbs made his first career start.

“We’ve always talked about doing it and never did. We just thought this would be the right time to try it and it definitely helped us have a better idea with what to call and where to go with the ball,” Jasper said. “It helped make sure we were in the right play and made Ricky more effective. When he’s in the right play, he’s pretty darn good.”

Dobbs had a terrific game and deservedly was voted Most Valuable Player of the Texas Bowl. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound junior accounted for 296 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. The happy-go-lucky Georgia native rushed for a season-high 166 yards and three touchdowns and passed for another 130 yards and a touchdown.

Missouri was back on its heels all game and looked like a team that had never seen the triple-option before. Slotback Marcus Curry rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown and added 97 yards receiving on five catches.

“We did a great job in practice of trying to simulate what we were going to see, but you really don’t know until you get in the games and see the speed of it,” Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “It’s all about doing your assignment and we had several plays where guys didn’t take the quarterback, didn’t take the dive or didn’t take the pitch and that will kill you.”

It was the first time since early in the season that Curry has been healthy as he missed three games with a quadriceps injury.

“By the grace of God, I was able to be healthy for this game,” Curry said. “The defense was trying to take away the fullback and that left the perimeter open. The slotbacks were finally able to make some plays today. It was a good feeling.”

Navy had an equally innovative scheme on defense as veteran coordinator Buddy Green employed a two-man defensive line for most of the game. To counteract Missouri’s dangerous spread passing attack, Green removed nose guard Chase Burge in favor of an extra safety – normally sophomore Kwesi Mitchell.

Green went to the odd alignment after Missouri scored on the second play of the game on a 58-yard screen pass to All-American wide receiver Danario Alexander, who caught the ball in the backfield then used speed and moves to weave his way downfield through Navy defenders who were either well-blocked or caught standing still.

“We were just trying to get more speed on the field. Most of the (Missouri) stuff was throw and catch so it was hard to bring much heat,” Green said. “The way they spread you out they’re like a basketball team and it’s a fastbreak every play. They have a great offense with great players and we were just trying to find a way to slow them down.”

Navy played its patented bend-but-don’t-break style to perfection – forcing Missouri to settle for field goals on two long drives, coming up with three turnovers and also totaling four sacks and six tackles for loss. Heroes abounded with outside linebacker Craig Schaefer recording three tackles for loss, inside linebacker Ross Pospisil and safety Wyatt Middleton making interceptions, end Billy Yarbrough forcing a fumble that outside linebacker Ram Vela recovered.

Inside linebacker Tony Haberer was the unsung hero, lining up all over the field and sometimes serving as the missing nose guard. By keeping four linebackers in the game while using a nickel package, Green was able to use the linebackers to blitz from all angles.

“I’m so proud of my guys. They battled and battled the whole way. They absolutely played their hearts and left it all on the field,” Green said. “Our guys once again came up with big plays in the red zone.”

Green admitted it was important to record four sacks and notch numerous pressures on Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who had a rough game – going 15-for-31 passing with two interceptions.

“All they did was take a defensive lineman out and put a linebacker in,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel incorrectly said. “It was a nice little scheme and they did an excellent job, but it was nothing profound. Once they did it we adjusted. If (Gabbert) was in here, he would probably say he needs to play better. But I can also coach better.”

Navy had to go away from its unique 2-5-4 defensive alignment after Mitchell and backup nickel cornerback David Wright got injured. Green returned to the team’s base alignment, which was responsible for stopping Missouri on fourth-and-12 from the Navy 15-yard line and a game-clinching interception by safety Wyatt Middleton.

“We went back to the field team in the fourth quarter and those guys came up with two great stops in the red zone,” Green said. “It was huge that we were able to get to the quarterback a bit. I thought the series when we got the fourth down stop was huge. We got pressure two plays in a row and made (Gabbert) hurry the throw.”

Missouri came into the game averaging 30 points per game and was held to less than half that. Green praised Navy’s senior-laden defense, led by Pospisil the team captain.

“I give all the credit to our senior class. We’ve had tremendous leadership, a lot of maturity and poise all year long,” Green said. “It all starts with Poppy and goes right down the line with every other senior we have.”

Post-season Postscript #3

Missouri Falls Hard in Texas Bowl

By David Briggs, Columbia Tribune
December 31, 2009

HOUSTON — Missouri’s football coaches spent the past 11 practices embedding the message into their players.

Looks don’t tell Navy’s story.

Even if, as senior defensive end Brian Coulter said, “their pads might be sagging off them and their offensive linemen might look like defensive linemen.”

But two plays into Thursday’s Texas Bowl, as Tigers wideout Danario Alexander sliced through Navy’s defense for a 58-yard touchdown reception, his teammates could be pardoned for contemplating the week’s prevailing question.

Could Navy, unable to win what Midshipmen Coach Ken Niumatalolo dubbed the “get-off-the-bus-contest,” really hang with Missouri?

“When you score the second play of the game,” Alexander said, “you think things will be easy.”

Said receiver Jared Perry: “Everybody thought that.”

Turns out, a far different question would soon resonate — one louder than the Brigade of Midshipmen's “Hey, hey hey, goodbye!” chants as the final seconds expired.

Could Missouri answer anything Navy did?

Bewildered by Navy’s two-man defensive fronts and its even more unorthodox flexbone offense, Missouri fell 35-13 before a half-empty crowd at Reliant Stadium. Bowl officials announced a paid attendance of 69,441, although empty seats outnumbered filled ones.

While Missouri only had 298 offensive yards after Alexander’s early dash, Navy time and again burned the Tigers via both ground and air.

Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, named the game’s most valuable player, shredded every last edge of Missouri’s defense, running for 166 yards and three touchdowns and throwing for another. Missouri, allowing a season-high 385 rushing yards, only held the ball for 19:06.

“That was probably the worst performance since I’ve been a head coach of a football team, the way they played,” Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said.

Worst ever?

“No, as a head football coach in bowls,” he later clarified.

Either way, for the Tigers and their 16 seniors who have been part of more victories (38) than any four-year class in school history, it was an unsatisfactory conclusion.

They know time will lend perspective. A team that once fell to 5-4 after an embarrassing 40-32 home loss to Baylor recovered to put itself in position to close the season with four straight wins for the first time since 1965. Players called the season a success.

“Personally,” Coulter said, “I view this as a successful season because nobody ever expected this team here to end this season 8-4 and even go to a bowl game.”

“We came here and kind of turned Mizzou around,” said Alexander, who finished with six catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. “Our recruiting class right now has a bunch of four-stars. When I came in , it wasn’t like that. It just kind of lets us know that we turned our program around and that it’s going to be successful for years to come.”

Still, as moist-eyed senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said, “to go out like that, it’s pretty tough.”

Particularly for the defense.

They weren’t the only problem. Sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert, flustered by Navy’s changing and overstuffed coverage, completed only 15 of 31 passes for 291 yards and threw two interceptions. And Missouri rarely tried to exploit Navy’s two-man fronts — Derrick Washington led Missouri with 62 yards on 11 carries.

But more than anything, the game smashed any notions of Missouri bearing an advantage against a run-saturated offense.

For the past three weeks, the Tigers had cited their ability to stop the run. If few teams ran as much as Navy — the Mids threw on just 96 of its 853 plays from scrimmage during the regular season — then it played into MU’s hands, right?

Missouri allowed only 96.2 rushing yards per game, 12th nationally, and held each Big 12 opponent below its season average.

But Thursday, two things became clear: The Tigers’ rushing numbers have been bolstered because opponents had so much success passing against them, and they had seen nothing resembling the flexbone.

Dobbs expertly guided an offense that gashed Missouri in every way. He pitched, dashed inside and out, handed to his fullback, even threw over the top. Dobbs completed nine passes for 130 yards on a season-high 14 attempts.

Navy nearly equaled its per-game rushing average (272.4 yards) in the first half with 216 ground yards. Only two Dobbs fumbles — one on Missouri’s 19 and another just before he stumbled into the end zone — in the first half prevented further embarrassment for the Tigers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Disappointment and No Consolation

The end result is the same, whether I stayed up or not: Oregon State - 33 and University of Oregon - 37. It is just as well I couldn't stay awake through the third quarter - the pain of a 5:00 AM wake up call this morning would not have been worth waiting for the end product last
night. In the second quarter, I heard Jan clapping from way down in our basement family room where she stayed up to watch the game - the Beavers had just scored a touchdown. I had already gone upstairs to bed with my laptop - the play-by-play recalls on the ESPN Website were about a minute behind real-time. Even my boss was into the game - she sent an email some time after 1:00 AM: "that was a fabulous game, you should be proud" - there is no consolation with this loss. So I will just have to wait, and hope for the smell of roses next year on New Year's Day - Auld Lang Syne:

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an nivir brocht ti mynd?
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an ald lang syn?

An sheerly yil bee yur pynt-staup!
an sheerly al bee myn!
An will tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

We twa hay rin aboot the braes,
an pood the gowans fyn;
Bit weev wandert monae a weery fet,
sin ald lang syn.

We twa hay pedilt in the burn,
fray mornin sun til dyn;
But seas between us bred hay roard
sin ald lang syn.

An thers a han, my trustee feer!
an gees a han o thyn!
And we’ll tak a richt gude-willie-waucht,
fir ald lang syn.

Robert Burns, 1788