Weatherbie is eager to atone for errors Navy had bye week to focus on Air Force

October 08, 1997|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Charlie Weatherbie was fit to be tied yesterday.

An open date after a frustrating defeat can do that to a man, and Navy's football coach wasn't immune.

"I'm ready to play right now," said Weatherbie, knowing full well that he and a sellout crowd will have to wait until noon Saturday to see the Midshipmen take on No. 19 Air Force (6-0) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

"We're all anxious to get that bad taste out of your mouths. And we're focused on reaching one of our No. 1 goals."

The bad taste was the Mids' disappointing 26-17 loss at Duke on Sept. 27, and the goal is his team's annual quest to capture the Commander In Chief's Trophy.

A win over Air Force, which is oddly a one-point underdog, would not only give unranked Navy the inside track on claiming the coveted service academy award, but it also would keep alive some of the Mids' other goals, namely a winning season and a bowl berth.

"I truly believe that the winner of this game will win the Commander In Chief's Trophy," said Weatherbie, "and the team that makes the plays will win the game."

Navy (2-2) made enough plays to escape Colorado Springs last year with a 20-17 victory over the Falcons. The win helped Army regain the Commander In Chief's trophy from an Air Force team that has owned it six of the past eight years, and it helped earn the Mids an invitation to the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu, where they defeated Cal, 42-38.

Last year's outcome may explain why the Mids are favored over a team that is unbeaten and posted a 24-18 overtime win against San Diego State two weeks ago, a team that beat Navy, 45-31, in the opener for both teams.

If Navy, which needs to win four of its remaining five games against Division I-A rivals to secure a postseason bid, grounds Air Force again, it would mark the first time since 1985 that the Mids have defeated a Top 25 team. For that to happen, Navy undoubtedly will need more than the 316 yards of total offense it produced against Duke.

Navy slotback Pat McGrew believes he has the solution.

"We just have to eliminate the little mistakes and mental errors that break our rhythm," said McGrew, a 6-foot, 222-pound senior. "Looking at films of the Duke game, we saw that we were one assignment away from breaking the big play. If we go out and play Air Force like we did last year, I don't see any reason why the outcome would be any different."

Nor does teammate Kevin Lewis.

"Everyone, myself included, bit on some things that weren't our job and it cost us the game [against Duke]," said the senior defensive back from Forestville, Md. "Instead of everyone trying to make the big play, if everyone concentrates and does a solid job in whatever their position is, we should come through with a victory."

NOTES: Quarterback Chris McCoy has scored a touchdown in nine straight games and has found the end zone in 23 of his 27 career games. McCoy's 30 career rushing touchdowns put him one shy of school leader Napoleon McCallum. Strong safety Gervy Alota has led the Mids in tackles in every game and leads the team with 44 overall. Navy's defense has not allowed a second-half touchdown in the past three games. After shutting out Rutgers and SMU in the third and fourth quarters, Navy limited Duke to three second-half field goals. A record crowd of 36,000 is expected Saturday. The game has been sold out since the summer. Former Navy two-way lineman Bob Reifsnyder, who will be inducted into the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame on Dec. 9, will be honored at halftime. To avoid traffic caused by the U.S. Sailboat Show taking place this weekend in downtown Annapolis, football fans are being urged to take exit 24 (Rowe Boulevard) off Route 50.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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