For Navy, it just gets tougher

After opening loss, four 2000 bowl teams

College Football

September 01, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

If one conclusion can be gleaned from the Navy Academy's football opener, it is that the Midshipmen have a difficult journey in their quest for a winning season.

One loss is already recorded. The next four opponents were 2000 bowl teams, and later in the season, Navy must visit Toledo - a 38-7 winner over Minnesota on Thursday night - and Notre Dame.

The remaining four games on the schedule - Rice, Rutgers, Tulane and Army - are winnable, but the Midshipmen must spring an upset or two along the way to finish above .500.

Temple proved too formidable in a 45-26 decision, controlling the game throughout and amassing 285 yards on the ground. Taking the opening kickoff, the Owls drove 85 yards for a touchdown and never lost their grip on the game.

This was accomplished without two of the Owls' biggest offensive weapons, 1,000-yard rusher Tanardo Sharps (Meade), who was held out with a minor groin injury, and leading wide receiver Greg Muckerson, held out pending an eligibility ruling.

Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie cited mistakes and missed assignments as responsible for the team's fifth consecutive opening-game defeat. He was particularly harsh on the defensive unit, which was outweighed up front by Temple's offensive line by approximately 25 pounds a man.

"We should be moving, not standing there as magnets to be blocked," Weatherbie said. "We're going to play with a smallish line, so that means positioning and technique must be correct."

Navy's most effective defender was tackle Andy Zetts, who intercepted the first pass of his career to set up a field goal and also recovered a fumble that gave the offense a chance (which was flubbed) to score nine seconds before halftime.

Results were mixed on the flexbone offense directed primarily by quarterback Craig Candeto, who threw for two second-half scores after having trouble getting unwound before the break.

Weatherbie inserted veteran Ed Malinowski after the team couldn't reach the end zone through most of two quarters, but returned to Candeto after halftime.

"We planned to give Ed an opportunity at some point," said the coach. "We had gone three-and-out a couple of times, so that was it. But Craig is still our quarterback."

The most productive yardage came from an unlikely source, kickoff returner Tony Lane, who had never touched the ball in a collegiate game.

He ran back five kickoffs for 205 yards, with three of the returns providing the field position for two touchdowns and a field goal.

There were some encouraging signs amid a discouraging defeat. After all, the Midshipmen were nearly shut out at home by Temple last season in the equivalent game.

But with Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Boston College and Air Force on the horizon, the cruise is going to encounter choppy water.

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