Navy throws off Rice in senior send-off

November 20, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

His football team turned in its most impressive performance of the season in upsetting Rice, 29-17, but yesterday Navy coach George Chaump expressed regrets.

"My only regret is that I believe we can now compete against anyone, and I wish our season was starting now instead of ending," Chaump said. "I don't know of any seniors who have gone through as many problems as this class. People doubted them, but they hung together, never losing sight of their goal."

Chaump's 22 upperclassmen played their final game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium before 20,178. They now await their annual meeting with Army, Dec. 3 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

Listed as 16-point underdogs yesterday, the Midshipmen (3-7) have now won consecutive games for the first time since October 1993, when they beat Air Force and Colgate. They also ended any hopes Rice (4-6) had of gaining a bowl bid.

Navy combined an opportunistic offense and a steadily improving defense that stopped the Owls' wishbone attack in crucial situations.

But Rice, playing most of the game with freshman quarterback Chad Nelson subbing for Josh LaRocca, who was nursing a shoulder injury, was still in contention after Nelson broke loose for a 74-yard touchdown run with 5:49 left to play.

That trimmed Navy's lead to 24-17, and Chaump acknowledged that he began to have some doubts.

Rice, however, was playing at a disadvantage at that point, having used all its timeouts in the third quarter because of Nelson's inexperience at play-calling.

The Midshipmen, who had difficulty running the ball much of the afternoon, then put together a time-consuming drive when they needed it most.

Led by sophomore tailback Omar Nelson rushing for 37 of his 53 yards, Navy moved the ball to the Rice 12. Sophomore Ryan Bucchianeri kicked his second field goal of the day from 25 yards out to seal the victory with 35 seconds to go.

Navy added a safety in the closing seconds when defensive tackle Tom Neville sacked Nelson.

Senior quarterback Jim Kubiak could not have scripted a happier ending for his final home game.

"I feel like a million dollars," said Kubiak, who was 19 of 35 for 242 yards, including a 7-yard toss to Matt Scornavacchi that put Navy ahead 16-10 at halftime. "I wasn't picking myself off the ground all day, and my receivers, especially Damon Dixon, Scornavacchi and Ross Scott, were making great catches."

Scott, a promising sophomore who has been hampered by injuries, caught six passes -- one fewer than he had caught the entire season.

Four of Scott's receptions came on Navy's initial touchdown drive of 64 yards in the first quarter after Rice had opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal by Matt Huelsman.

"I finally got healthy," said Scott, who underwent knee surgery before the season started and later suffered from hamstring and knee injuries and a kidney ailment. "Their cornerbacks were giving us a lot of cushion. Kubiak realized it and took advantage of it."

Rice would reclaim the lead, 10-6, when Nelson scampered 14 yards on a keeper early in the second quarter. But Navy scored the next 18 points.

Bucchianeri closed the gap to 10-9 with a 42-yard field goal, the longest of his career.

Late in the second quarter, Navy marched 72 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown with Scornavacchi racing clear across the end zone to make a leaping reception over cornerback Bobby Dixon.

The Midshipmen's final touchdown was set up when Rice's Byron Coston fumbled away Brian Schrum's punt at the 24, where linebacker Tom Poulter recovered for Navy.

Navy then moved to the 5-yard line on a pass interference call. Two plays later, fullback Monty Williams crashed off tackle from a yard out with 10:46 remaining.

NEXT FOR NAVY

Who: Army.

When: Dec. 3, at Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia.

Record: 3-7.

Yesterday: Idle.

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