Mids come to grips with fumbling woes Players take ball all over campus

November 18, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

There was an addition to the regular luncheon menu of steak and mashed potatoes for a number of Navy football players who were spotted carrying footballs around the academy campus yesterday.

"We carry it wherever we go -- to classes, to exams, to our dorms, to drills, to practice and to meals, so we're always thinking about football," said wide receiver Damon Dixon, as he hugged his assigned pigskin at a news conference for the Navy-Southern Methodist game Saturday.

Dixon, who leads the Midshipmen receivers with 519 yards on 44 receptions, had one of five lost fumbles that matched the five passes intercepted by Vanderbilt in a 41-7 whipping in Nashville last Saturday.

"No, it wasn't the coach's [George Chaump] idea," Dixon said. "Our captain, [running back] Jason VanMatre, suggested it. Jason also lost a fumble, and he's got all the skill position players toting footballs this week."

Chaump, however, made a few "minor" changes of his own, trying to keep his players focused for their games against SMU (1-7-2) and Army. Winning both would give Navy its first winning season since 1982.

Chaump called a team meeting Monday to determine what went wrong against Vanderbilt after the Mids had looked impressive in leading then-second-ranked Notre Dame at halftime two weeks earlier.

"It was mostly a lack of concentration," defensive back Chris Hart said. "All the mistakes weren't on the offensive side. We missed a lot of assignments on the defensive side, too, like the pitch play [a 58-yard run by Tony Jackson] that cost us a touchdown."

In an effort to unify his team, Chaump will not permit his players to attend off-campus movies Friday nights. Instead, the team will watch a film together.

"I know it doesn't sound like much, but Coach Chaump is trying to keep us a close-knit team," Hart said. "Last year, when we went through all those losing stretches, there was some finger-pointing and guys trying to solve the problem themselves. That hasn't happened this year, and we're trying not to let it happen."

Chaump said: "I refuse to take it out on the players. Everyone makes mistakes. This [movie] deal is not an act of punishment. The players bought into it 100 percent. The big thing is trying to restore their confidence.

"But I know my players. They have the right stuff. They have tremendous pride and were embarrassed last week. I'm sure they'll come back fighting mad."

* Five defensive players -- Ty Renick (ankle), Dave Shaw (knee), Stacey Yupp (ankle), Javier Zuluaga (thigh) and Hart (toe) -- are nursing injuries but expect to play.

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