Navy defense is a quick study

Sports,College,Campus Confidential,Kevin Dunleavy

At new spots, Bridges, French lead Blue to 21-0 victory over Gold

The best news this spring for the Navy defense was the quick-study conversions of junior nose guard Travis Bridges and senior inside linebacker Brye French. Saturday in the annual Blue & Gold game, the duo helped the Blue team shut out the Gold, 21-0.

Bridges, previously an offensive guard, had seven tackles, including a sack, and French, previously an outside linebacker, had six tackles, including one for sack, and another for a loss against the Gold team, made up of players buried on the depth chart.

The deepest penetration for the Gold came on its first possession as Mike Patrick (7 carries, 52 yards) bolted for 26 yards to the Blue 32. But two plays later, French broke through the line and sacked quarterback Cody West to help end the threat.

In the second half, the 6-foot, 318-pound Bridges stuffed Gold quarterback Cody Akers at the line on a fourth-down carry.

“Travis Bridges has all the tools to be a successful nose guard,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He’s over 300 pounds. He’s flexible. He’s strong. He’s explosive. He’s just learning the position.”

The Blue was led on offense by inexperienced fullbacks Noah Copeland (10 touches, 87 yards) and Prentice Christian (8 touches, 77 yards), who ran for a touchdown. Copeland, a sophomore, and Christian, a senior, enter next season with a combined two rushing attempts in their career, but looked comfortable running behind an offensive line that returns only one starter.

Throwing mostly screen passes and short stuff, junior quarterback Trey Miller completed 7 of 9 passes for 104 yards and rushed 10 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns. On his two incompletions, however, he missed open receivers.

The Blue moved the ball consistently on the ground and through the air, but yielded five sacks, including three on third down plays, which halted drives.

After the Blue drove 70 yards on seven efficient plays on its first possession, the afternoon belonged to the defense, which set up the next two touchdowns.

The first came after senior defensive end Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick blindsided Gold quarterback Greg Bryant, forcing a fumble which was recovered by senior outside linebacker Keegan Wetzel at the Gold 38. Four plays late, Miller carried for 14 yards on an option play for his second touchdown.

The last Navy touchdown came after Bridges stuffed an option play of the Gold. Backup quarterback John Hendrick threw for 19 yards to junior wideout Casey Bolena, setting up a 10-yard run by Christian.

Game notes:

  • At halftime, sophomore defensive back George Jamison received the Admiral Mack Award, given to the most improved player in the spring. Miller captured the honor last year.
  • Outside linebackers D.J. Sargenti (10 tackles, 1½ sacks), a junior, and Paul Quessenberry (4 tackles, 1½ sacks), a sophomore, excelled for the Gold defense. Quessenberry returned a fumble 72 yards for a touchdown in an earlier scrimmage.
  • Junior kicker Stephen Picchini was true on three extra point tries, but missed field goal attempts of 41 and 44 yards.
  • Under a heavy rush, Gold quarterbacks West and Bryant were a combined 2 of 12 for 17 yards. The Blue totaled six sacks, including one each by sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Drake and junior defensive end Evan Palelei.
  • Sophomore safety James Britton (Blue) and sophomore linebacker Joe Worth (Gold) had interceptions.

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