By Rob Ludwig
Corsicana Daily Sun
If Navarro is to keep its pace of double-digit victories in 2012, it had better find a way to keep its focus against what can be a confusing Georgia Military defense and a very diverse offense.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs take on 20th-ranked Georgia Military in a matchup of familiar foes on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the 11th Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove.
Navarro (9-2) has posted double-digit victories the last two seasons, but Georgia Military and its 7-3 record may be a bit deceiving as the Bulldogs map strategy to make it three in a row.
Georgia Military coach Bert Williams is a master of a 3-3 stack defense that brings defenders from different lanes across the line of scrimmage and often interrupts even the best blocking offensive lines.
“You’ve got to lock in and stay focused against their defense,” said Navarro coach Brian Mayper. “If you are an offensive lineman, you’d better keep your eyes open and not make mistakes. Once they get up on you, they really get after it. They are a sound football team and really get after you defensively.”
Offensively, GMC has often been on fire behind quarterback Clay Chastain (121-217-7, 20 TDs). The Bulldogs defeated current No. 4 Snow College early in the season, but succumbed to unranked Dean 35-28 and No. 6 Nassau 50-24 before giving No. 1 Iowa Western a scare before losing 55-35.
Chastain was at his best in Georgia Military’s final regular season game, completing 20 of 31 passes for 322 yards and five TDs in a 43-25 win over a solid Lackawanna team.
The Bulldogs have been dependent on a pair of productive running backs most of the season. Mario Alford is averaging 10.4 yards per carry with six scores, though he has not appeared since Oct. 13. Akeem Judd has taken up the slack with 423 yards and five TDs on the ground, including a 10-carry, 155-yard effort vs. Lackawanna.
“They are far from one dimensional offensively,” Mayper said. “They mix the pass in with the run behind a massive offensive line. We’d better be prepared to carry out our assignments to shut down that offense.
“If we focus in, things could snowball for us like it has in some games this season.”
Mayper said he’s seen positive signs in workouts that his Bulldogs can maintain the proper focus in their third straight bowl game.
“We’ve been working at a fast tempo in practice and kept them fresh and healthy,” he said. “I’ve got a good feeling that our kids will be focused on their assignments and playing hard against a very talented Georgia Military team. If, for some reason, they aren’t ready to play, we’re going to have our hands full and getting that 10th win of the season is going to be difficult.”
No. 5 Navarro (9-2) vs. No. 20 Georgia Military (7-3)
C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl
Saturday, 11 a.m.
At Bulldawg Stadium, Copperas Cove
Radio: KAND 1340 AM
Recent History: Navarro has won the last eight meetings, including a 29-18 win in Milledgeville, Ga. In 2011. Navarro owns a 10-4 record in the all-time series.
Key Players: Navarro: QB Stump Godfrey, RB Traylon Shead, WR-KR Tony Drake, TE Gerard Shillow, RB Tyler Middleton, LB D.J. Simon, RB Tim Wright, DE Andre Ross, T Aleon Calhoun, T Zach Fondal, G Mitchell Bell, DT Arnold Blackmon, DE Michael Jolivet, C John Studdard, DT Terrell Brooks. GMC: QB Clay Chastain, OLB DeAngelo Jennings, ATH Mario Alford, OL Trenton Brown, OL Tre Carter, DE Deondre Willis, DB Deangelo Jennings, LB Brandon Golson, CB Ronnie Martin, S Neville Hewitt, CB Tiquention Coleman, K Chris Bell, WR Kevin Gary, RB Akeem Judd, DB Quintavious Knight.
Game Notes: Georgia Military averages more than 6-5, 315 per man across the offensive line, giving ample protection for Chastain and opening holes for Alford and Judd . . . Alford was averaging 10.4 yards per carry but has not run the ball since GMC’s sixth game. Alford is an Arizona commit, as is LB Golson, who has plyed in only 4 games this season . . . Chastain has been impressive in his freshman season, throwing for 1,907 yards and 20 TDs. Most impressively is that he has been sacked only once all year . . . Gary is GMC’s leading receiver, averaging 20.7 yards per catch. He’s scored on 7 of his 21 catches . . . K Bell is 8 of 14 on field goals . . . Hewitt leads GMC with 54 tackles . . . DBs Coleman and Knight both have 4 INTs this season . . . Navarro will be playing with CB Montell Garner and first-team all-conference S Thomas McDonald, the latter dropping below the necessary hours to remain eligible during the season . . . Shead has committed to SMU and Jolivet is pledged to Houston . . . Godfrey is looking at returning to New Mexico, but has received an offer from Arkansas State and is eyeing UNLV. T Fondal is considering Kansas, South Florida and Texas Tech. The Red Raiders and South Florida are the final pairing for T Calhoun. G Bell tripped to Kansas recently. Bell had committed to Arkansas earlier this season, but back away after the coaching turmoil and the Razorbacks’ poor showing in the SEC this year. A player who could benefit from a big game is WR Eddie Johnson. Once a Baylor signee, Johnson is being pursued by Florida Atlantic, but could have a bevy of recruiters with a solid showing vs. GMC’s talented secondary.