SMU ground game has little trouble with Navy, 24-11 2 Mustangs go over 100 yards, sending Mids to third loss in row

November 22, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

All season, Navy's young defense has been victimized by the pass. But yesterday, in the final home game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the SMU Mustangs ran over and around the Midshipmen on their way to a 24-11 victory.

A crowd of 27,487 saw running backs Rodnick Phillips and Kelsey Adams, a pair of Texas natives, revive memories of the Mustangs' famed "Pony Express" backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James in the early 1980s.

Phillips, a junior, rushed for 151 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Adams, a senior, gained 137 yards on 18 carries as SMU closed out its season 5-7 and ended a three-game losing streak against Navy (3-7).

It was a 76-yard sprint by Adams in the fourth quarter that killed Navy's comeback hopes after the Mids had rallied from a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter to close to 14-11 at halftime.

Roy Rios booted a 30-yard field goal to boost the Mustangs' lead to 17-11 with 11: 03 remaining. But Navy seemed in excellent position after Tray Calisch's punt rolled out of bounds on the SMU 1-yard line with 8: 07 left.

Phillips managed six yards on two carries, leaving SMU with third-and-four from its 7. The Navy defense geared for a run, but Adams still found a big hole off tackle and was suddenly running free down the left sideline. Cornerback Davede Alexander dragged him down from behind on the Navy 17.

Three plays later from the 12, Phillips raced untouched into the end zone for the game-breaker. He finished the season with 1,115 yards.

Phillips carried seven times on the Mustangs' opening 12-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by sophomore quarterback Chris Sanders' 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Damond Blueitt.

An interception by safety Tracy Hart on the SMU 35 set up another time-consuming, 17-play march, with Phillips diving over from the 1.

"We've had trouble all season coming off the blocks from the first snap," said junior end Gino Marchetti, one of the few bright spots on defense with five tackles for losses.

"After the first quarter, we said, 'This has got to stop. We can't be slowed down by a single block,' and we regrouped."

Meanwhile, the once-dependable Navy offense was also struggling, with the Mids limited to five plays in the first quarter.

A six-quarter scoreless drought ended in the second quarter when junior Tim Shubzda, who had replaced slump-ridden senior Tom Vanderhorst as the place-kicker, converted from 29 yards out.

The Mids made it close late in the second quarter after plebe cornerback Bas Williams made his first career interception, returning it to the SMU 41.

Senior wide-out Mark Mill turned a short flare pass by Brian Broadwater into a 29-yard gain to the SMU 6. Fullback Matt Harden, one of 17 seniors making his final home appearance, ran two yards for Navy's only touchdown.

Coach Charlie Weatherbie elected to go for the two-point conversion, and Broadwater made it work by racing around right end to cut the deficit to 14-11.

But that would be it for Navy, which was limited to 175 yards total offense by a swarming SMU defense that did an excellent job of controlling the Mids' pitch plays.

"Their defense did a lot of stunting, and we didn't pick it up," said Navy senior slotback Jason Wolf. "The wind [a gusty 25 mph] was also a factor, but they put a lot of pressure on our quarterback. And we just didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had."

It all added up to a third straight loss for the Mids, who have only a face-saving game with Army remaining on their schedule, Dec. 5 in Philadelphia.

SMU .... 14 .... 0 .... 0 .... 10 -- 24

Navy ... 0 ..... 11 ... 0 ..... 0 -- 11

Next for Navy

Opponent: Army

Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

When: Dec. 5, noon

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WNAV (1430 AM)

Series: Army leads, 47-44-7

Last year: Navy 39, Army 7

Army's record: 2-8

Army yesterday: Lost to Louisville, 35-23.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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