State's winless players lose everything but hope Pride, desire remain intact despite ribbing

October 24, 1991|By Jerry Bembry and John W. Stewart

In some of yesterday's editions, a chart with the football results for Navy, Towson State and Morgan State incorrectly listed all of their games played so far as on the road. Navy #F played Ball State, William & Mary, Bowling Green and Air Force at home. Towson State played Boston University, Delaware State, Rhode Island and Indiana, Pa., at home. Morgan State played North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State and Virginia Union at home.

The Sun regrets the error.

Last fall, Ernest Johnson III and Dan Crowley were enjoying the good life as DeMatha High School seniors and starters on a football team that would go 9-1.

A year later, Johnson and Crowley are playing for teams that have yet to win a game.

With the college football season half over, Johnson, a starting offensive guard for Morgan State, and Crowley, a backup quarterback at Towson State whose playing time has been increasing steadily, are playing for teams that are 0-7 and 0-6, respectively. With Navy (0-6) also winless, the state of Maryland has three of the country's 13 Division I football teams that have yet to have that winning feeling.


It's hard enough for young players to adjust to college life -- and those at the Naval Academy endure rigors not asked of most other college students -- without the added responsibility of competing in Division I athletics. When you also play for a team zTC whose weekly highlights come against each other in practice -- and not on Saturday afternoon -- the problems and frustration are only compounded.

But, it seems all the losses haven't got many of the players on these teams down.

"It's not hard to go to practice," said Johnson. "We want to win, it's what we strive for."

Said Crowley: "We don't play from the past; all we can do is get better."

And, it seems, there's nothing they can do about the ribbing they take.

"I see my buddies from home and they tease me, and ask me why we're losing," said John Swigart, a reserve running back at ** Towson who went to Overlea: "Still, they know how much an accomplishment it is just to play college football."

Said Donte Carter, a starting wide receiver at Morgan State who went to Carver: "Some of that stuff is to be expected, but it's nothing we can't handle."

But for Towson State freshman Brian McCarty, who was redshirted last season, it's not that easy.

"I came from a strong high school program [Wilson in Reading, Pa.], we were 14-1 my senior season and it was the best year of my life," said McCarty, who leads the Tigers in rushing (383 yards, 5.8 average, with two touchdowns). "Then there were all the distractions here last year, and it's been tough. We're losing and I'm not used to it.

"The last time I played was in high school. Now, it is I-AA, and the players are bigger, stronger, faster. As for the losing, my best friends from home are supportive. Around campus, some of the students show interest, but a lot of them don't. It's as though they couldn't care less."

What's so frustrating at Navy is that the losing streak follows a season when the Midshipmen finished 5-6 under first-year coach George Chaump -- the most victories since 1982. But a combination of inexperienced players and mistakes at key moments of close games (four of the losses have been by a touchdown or less) has led to the worst start since 1948, when Navy finished 0-8-1.

"I've never experienced anything like this," said sophomore quarterback Jason Van Matre, who came from a winning program at B.T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Fla., and who led the Naval Academy Prep School team to an unbeaten record two years ago. "I don't like it at all, and I know it's driving Coach Chaump crazy."

While this is the third year that junior tailback Vinnie Smith has seen the team lose, this is the first where a winless season is


"Coming to Navy, I saw a great opportunity and I felt we were on the winning track, so I really didn't expect to lose like this," said Smith, who was an all-conference player at Jordan High School in Durham, N.C. "You hear some jokes in the hall about the team, but most of the people I've been in contact with have been supportive. The wins are going to come; we just have to keep working on it."

Chaump won't publicly admit to frustration, but the look on his face as the season has progressed tells the story of a man searching hard for answers. He recalled one play from Saturday's 21-14 loss at Temple. Defensive back Chad Chatlos, the team's designated punt blocker, was switched to punt returner after an injury to B.J. Mason. Chatlos' replacement, whom Chaump would not name, ran his route and had a clear path to the punter -- only to pull up at the last moment.

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