Fullbacks in step, Midshipmen follow Win would give Navy 1st 3-0 mark since '79

September 28, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Naval reserves had a coming-out party last week and Omar Nelson was right in step.

In the stirring victory over Southern Methodist, No. 2 kicker Tom Vanderhorst and deposed quarterback Ben Fay stole the headlines with their last-minute exploits.

But Nelson, the backup fullback to Tim Cannada, helped Navy get to the end with a career-high 108 yards rushing after carrying only once for no gain as Cannada ran for 107 in the opener at Rutgers.

"I knew I had ability. I just had to go out and show it," said Nelson, who figures to be a prominent player again today at Boston College when unbeaten Navy goes for its third straight win. The Midshipmen have not been 3-0 since 1979 and only three times since 1960.

It was an encouraging moment for Nelson, a fireplug-like senior from Silver Spring, who had big designs when he entered the academy despite being lightly recruited out of John F. Kennedy High School.

"I came because it was an opportunity to play Division I-A football close to home. Plus, I realized there would be opportunities after graduation," he said softly.

"I wanted to rewrite the record book, but things just didn't turn out like that. I hope this is not the last 100-yarder. There are still a lot of games left."

Nelson was the starting fullback for the first seven games of 1995 before being supplanted by Cannada, a junior. Nelson's previous high was 83 rushing yards -- also against SMU.

Now, just as he has at quarterback and kicker, coach Charlie Weatherbie has, in effect, two starters at fullback, a key position in Navy's scheme.

"In this offense, you have to have two or three fullbacks because they get hit every play," Weatherbie said. "In the two weeks before the SMU game, Omar really had good practices.

"He got in there and broke some tackles and ran well. We believed he could. He's a tough competitor."

Nelson expects to share time.

"When my chance comes, I'm going to play as hard as I can," he said. "We can hit them with a one-two punch. With different people going into the game, something's going to break."

Because Navy runs so many option plays with Chris McCoy at quarterback, the blockers are active. McCoy several times needed relief last week because of fatigue.

"Everyone was getting tired," Nelson said. "Chris was running around so much I thought he would fall down."

Nelson said he is not surprised by Navy's 2-0 start.

"Last year, we knew we could play, but we weren't as confident as we are now," he said. "Now, we know we can win."

Navy today Opponent: Boston College

Site: Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Time: Noon

TV/Radio: ESPN2/WNAV (1430 AM), WITH (1230 AM)

Pub Date: 9/28/96

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