Navy stays afloat, regroups to steam by Rutgers, 34-7

Coming off loss to Irish, Mids bounce back, score on winless Knights early, often

November 07, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Navy simply took care of business.

Their preseason goals waylaid by three straight heart-wrenching defeats, the Midshipmen captured a much-needed victory, 34-7, over winless Rutgers yesterday before 20,339 fans at Rutgers Stadium.

This game lacked the massive audience, drama and potential milestones of last week's crushing loss at Notre Dame, but it served to restore some momentum to a Navy team that can still finish with a .500 record.

Whether the Midshipmen (3-6) could get inspired for the injury-ravaged Scarlet Knights (0-9) was the big pre-game question, but those concerns proved unfounded.

"We weren't coming in foaming at the mouth," said nose guard Gino Marchetti. "We knew what we had to do and did it. We relaxed a little bit and just got after it."

"I was very concerned about whether or not our team was ready to play," said coach Charlie Weatherbie. "Rutgers has some talent, and I didn't know if our team would come out with the intensity and focus we needed to after our defeat last week."

The thought of a potential letdown perished early when Navy drove 85 yards to a touchdown on its first possession, followed by a 45-yard Tim Shubzda field goal, then marched 88 yards to another touchdown and a 17-0 advantage five plays into the second quarter.

The defense permitted Rutgers one first-half threat -- a missed 40-yard field-goal attempt by Steven Barone -- and the Midshipmen failed to put the game away before intermission only because sophomore quarterback Brian Madden made a judgment error and had an unwise pass intercepted near the Rutgers goal line as the half expired.

Otherwise, Madden was superlative in his second start, rushing for 167 yards (1 fewer than his career high last week) and two touchdowns, consistently breaking tackle attempts by the youthful Rutgers defense and causing Weatherbie to remark: "He's a very physical player who can throw the football, a great competitor like Bronko Nagurski. Our players rise up when he's in there."

As well as Madden played, the defense was even more effective. The Scarlet Knights' only score came on a blocked punt, they managed just 7 yards rushing, and their freshman quarterback, Chad Schwenk, was sacked six times.

"They did a good job shutting down our running game, then were able to really gear up against the rush," said Schwenk, who had a respectable game with 149 yards passing.

If Rutgers was going to make a game of it, the point occurred after Navy pushed its lead to 20-0 on another Shubzda field goal with 8: 27 to play in the third quarter.

A punt pinned the Midshipmen inside their own 10 and, unable to make the first down, they sent Tray Calisch in to punt. Phil Douglas stormed in for the block and Jason Ohene picked up the ball inside the 5 and stepped in for a touchdown.

That made it 20-7 and uplifted the Scarlet Knights, who had surrendered 214 points in their previous four games. They need a victory against either Miami (Fla.) and Syracuse to avoid their second 0-11 season in three years. Their last win came against Navy on Nov. 7, 1998.

The spirited comeback was short-lived. Three plays later, slotback John Vereen (Severn) ripped off the longest run of his career, 53 yards, to his third touchdown of the season to restore Navy's margin at 27-7.

Two series later, Raheem Lambert provided the exclamation point with a 61-yard bolt through the middle to end all suspense about the outcome.

Madden said that Rutgers "didn't fold up the tent, playing hard the whole game. But we scored early. If you let them in the game, they were going to stay in it."

Schwenk competed well, but was handicapped by the team's inability to run the ball and handle a battery of Navy blitzes.

"As a defensive line, it was like leading the lamb to slaughter, so to speak," Marchetti said. "We knew we'd get to play with him a little bit, get into his head."

Co-captain Terrence Anderson was never worried that Navy would not be prepared to play this one.

"One of the biggest benefits of going to the Naval Academy is that we understand obstacles occur," he said. "It's never hard for us to come out and play hard. We were disappointed we didn't win [at Notre Dame], but getting up for a football game is never a problem here."

Next for Navy

Opponent: Tulane

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When: Saturday, noon

Record: 3-6

Yesterday: Lost to Houston, 36-31.

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