Revenge will be the motivating factor for the Navy football team today, as the Midshipmen play Delaware at 1:30 p.m. in their last home game of the season.
Navy (4-5) will be trying to reach the .500 mark for the first time in six weeks, and at the same time attempting to avenge last year's 10-9 loss to Delaware that ended the Blue Hens' 100th football anniversary year on an upswing.
"We want a winning season, and the way we came back and pulled a win out of the jaws of defeat against Toledo, that's the reprieve we needed," said Navy coach George Chaump, referring to last week's 14-10 victory. "Also, it's our last home game, and it's important for the seniors."
Delaware (6-4) may have more at stake. The Blue Hens, who use a wing-T set, have an outside shot at the Division I-AA playoffs and could get a boost with an impressive showing against their only I-A opponent.
"You have to be a little optimistic to accept that," Delaware coach Tubby Raymond said of his team's playoff chances. "We have to play well against the Naval Academy to be considered."
Raymond has won 20 of 24 season finales since he started coaching at Delaware 25 years ago.
"Oh, really? I don't keep up with that stuff," said Raymond, who has 202 career victories -- he's the 21st coach to pass 200 wins. "Maybe that's an indication that we have prided ourselves on working at getting better each week."
A Navy victory would break a wicked pattern that has survived nine years. Not counting season-ending games against Army, the last time Navy won a game after beating a I-A opponent was in 1981.
Navy had a chance to break that string earlier this season. But after beating Akron, the Midshipmen came up short on homecoming to James Madison.
"It just goes to show we can't take anybody lightly," Navy defensive back Bill Yancey said.
Navy is a different team since that loss, and the home fans will get their first look at the changes today. Mixing a wishbone formation with a pro set, the Midshipmen scored 31 points against top-ranked Notre Dame and came from behind with two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Toledo.
"We're getting better. If the season were just starting, I'd think we had a good football team," Chaump said. "The big improvement is with turnovers. We had 16 interceptions so early in the season. The last two games, we eliminated every turnover. That's the mark of an improving team."