Praise heaped on Mids' defense Weatherbie proud of unit for stuffing No. 19 Falcons

October 12, 1997|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Navy seniors Gervy Alota, Travis Cooley and Denis Kane had just been dismissed and were making their way to the locker room at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium yesterday when coach Charlie Weatherbie stopped them in their tracks.

"Why don't you guys stay in here," Weatherbie said to the players, who had already answered questions about their gut-wrenching, 10-7 loss to No. 19 Air Force. "It'll only be a minute."

Once he finished giving his account of what had transpired, Weatherbie walked over to his three defenders and gave each of them them a big hug.

"These guys fought their tails off," Weatherbie said. "I was very proud of the way our football team performed today."

The defensive unit was Navy's pride and joy, yielding only three points to Air Force and holding the Falcons to 229 yards of total offense.

Air Force's leading rusher, Charles "Spanky" Gilliam, was limited to 48 yards.

Kane, who made seven tackles, including six solos, from his position at defensive end, wasn't impressed with any of the numbers.

"If we score 10, we have to hold them to nine, and we didn't," Kane said. "We win as a team and we lose as team. It's a team loss."

Senior defensive end Michael Ogden helped put Navy in position to win when he hit quarterback Blane Morgan as he was throwing a pass early in the first quarter. The contact enabled teammate Kevin Lewis to easily collect his sixth career interception and gave the offense a chance to start a drive near midfield.

And Lewis made a huge stop on third-and-short late in the second quarter, forcing the Falcons to settle for a 33-yard field goal.

Cooley, a 5-foot-11, 232-pound linebacker, bruised Morgan's right shoulder on a sack midway through the third quarter. Morgan never returned.

But the rest of the Falcons' multiple-option offense wouldn't go away.

Air Force's 38 minutes of possession time kept the ball out of Navy quarterback Chris McCoy's hands and kept Navy's defense on the field longer than it would have liked.

"We just wanted to get the ball back to the offense, that's all we were thinking," said Cooley. "Give Air Force credit. They made some plays, moved the ball down the field. That's college football. You have to get the breaks. You have to make your own breaks."

Back-to-back tackles by David Viger, another of Navy's talented senior defensive linemen, forced Air Force to punt on its ensuing possession, but Navy's defensive unit quickly shuffled back onto the field after hearing that teammate Gary Lane had been called for roughing the punter.

Navy's defense held the Falcons to six yards on the first three plays and came away unscathed after Alex Wright's 48-yard field-goal attempt caromed off the right upright.

Alota led all Navy tacklers with 15, 10 of them unassisted. Cooley was next with 11, followed by Viger (eight) and Kane (seven).

"Every guy that was dressed on the sideline played as hard as they could," said Kane. "Everyone saw what happened. It wasn't for lack of effort by any of the guys."

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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