Navy runs out of tricks in loss to W. Va. Midshipmen lead early before falling, 45-24

Zereoue: 95 yards, 2 TDs

October 04, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie pulled all the rabbits out of his hat yesterday in an effort to upset 16th-ranked West Virginia.

The Midshipmen successfully used an onside kick, a triple-stack offense, a double-screen pass across the field and a fake punt to build a seven-point lead early in the second half.

But just when the standing-room only crowd of 36,009 -- the second-largest in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium history -- began sensing an upset, all the Midshipmen's tricks began to backfire. The Mountaineers, who were 16-point favorites, scored the game's last 28 points and rolled to their third victory in four games, 45-24.

"We were going to go for the win,whatever it took," said Weatherbie, who saw his Mids drop to 1-3 after again blowing an early lead. "We felt we needed an extra possession or two, so we used some trick plays. But, in the end, we found a way to give it away."

Navy's downfall began in the opening moments of the fourth quarter after West Virginia All-America back Amos Zereoue (23 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns) jogged 7 yards into the end zone to tie it at 24.

Faced with third-and-goal from the Navy 9, junior quarterback Steve Holley faded back to pass. He was blindsided by sophomore linebacker Antwan Lake, who jarred the ball loose and recovered it in the end zone to give the Mountaineers their first lead, 31-24, with 13: 47 remaining.

"Their lineman turned his back on me and gave me an open seam," said Lake, a native of Cambridge. "Holley never saw me coming."

Navy gambled with another fake punt on its next possession. This time it proved disastrous.

On fourth-and-seven from the Navy 24, punter Tray Calisch tucked the ball under his arm, but was forced out of bounds at the 29.

"We needed seven, but we got [five]," said Weatherbie. "If we had to do it over again, we'd still do it."

West Virginia took advantage of its excellent field position to boost its lead to 38-24 on another 7-yard burst by Zereoue with 9: 58 left.

Junior quarterback Marc Bulger, who riddled the Navy secondary for 354 yards and a pair of touchdowns, made two critical plays under pressure in this decisive drive.

A holding penalty and sack by defensive tackle Greg Adams had pushed the Mountaineers back to the Navy 43. On third-and-24, Bulger then connected with Zereoue for 15 yards. The Mountaineers spurned the field goal and Bulger found wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 21-yard gain to set up Zereoue's second touchdown.

"We've got to improve our pass coverage," said Weatherbie. "We sacked the quarterback three times and created some havoc. But we made some mistakes and couldn't overcome them. We've got to find a way of playing four quarters without turning the ball over."

For the first 20 minutes, the Midshipmen were almost flawless. An estimated 10,000 West Virginia supporters watched in disbelief as Navy used its triple option and the running of Holley (22 carries for 98 yards) and fullback Irv Dingle (18, 103) to keep the Mountaineers rocking on their heels.

Navy's opening gambit worked when Evan Papadakis recovered his onside kick on the Navy 49. The drive stalled and Tom Vanderhorst converted a 41-yard field goal.

After West Virginia's Jay Taylor missed a 28-yard field-goal attempt, Navy marched 80 yards for its first touchdown, with a 31-yard pass from Holley to slotback Jason Wolf as the key play.

Taylor began the second quarter with a 43-yard field goal to put the Mountaineers on the board, but Navy padded its lead to 17-3. After Holley and Wolf again teamed up for a 61-yard completion that put the ball on the West Virginia 7, Dingle burst 8 yards up the middle for the score three plays later.

West Virginia then marched 76 yards to close to 17-10, and regained possession when safety Gary Thompkins intercepted a Holley pass on the WVU 26.

The Mountaineers needed only four plays to pull even. Split end Khori Ivy beat diminutive sophomore cornerback Mike Wiedl down the sideline to haul in Bulger's 43-yard scoring pass.

"We've probably lost to three bowl-bound teams," said Weatherbie, referring to Wake Forest, Tulane and now West Virginia. "We can't say we're still an inexperienced team. We've got to find ways to win these games."

Next for Navy

Opponent: Air Force

Site: Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, Colo.

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Record: 4-1

Yesterday: Beat New Mexico, 56-14.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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