Navy slotback hopes to wreck Tech

Lane, also top return man, leads Mids in home opener

College Football

September 08, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Before last week's opener at Temple, Tony Lane had never touched the ball in a college football game.

But when the Naval Academy's 45-26 loss ended, Lane had not only touched the ball, he had carried it a long way.

The sophomore slotback from Wrens, Ga., enters today's home debut against Georgia Tech as the nation's No. 1 kickoff returner after running back five kicks for 205 yards, a 41-yard average.

Today's game begins a rugged four-game stretch against 2000 bowl teams for the Midshipmen, who were beaten by Joe Hamilton-led Tech, 49-14, in their home opener two years ago.

Despite carrying the ball from scrimmage just once last week, for a 3-yard loss, Lane shattered individual school records for return yardage and average and enabled Navy to break the team single-game record as well with 247 yards - 49 better than the previous high set 30 years before.

The returns put Navy in good position for three of its five scores. Lane's first touch resulted in a 67-yard runback that led to a field goal.

"It really shocked me at first," Lane said of his effort. "But when I really thought about it, it was like second nature. Besides, I can't really get a true feeling of record setting, because we lost the game."

The 5-foot-9, 194-pounder came to Annapolis after quarterbacking Jefferson County High to a Georgia Class AA regional title with a 9-1 record.

Shifted to slotback as a plebe, he played sparingly for the 2000 Mids but said the change didn't require much adjustment.

"I think I fit real well there," said Lane, one of Navy's quickest players. "It's really OK with me. Basically, I like to run the ball a lot, so the change was welcome. Every now and then, I played a little bit of receiver in high school, so it wasn't entirely new."

This weekend will be a special time for Lane, because he was recruited early on by Georgia Tech and the game "gives me a chance to prove something."

When Tech "backed off" in recruiting, said the son of a recently retired Army master sergeant, he chose the Naval Academy, because "I really like the military, and this is a great opportunity to get a great education."

Now helping plebes, Lane said that against Temple, Navy had trouble in the first half adapting to the game's speed.

"Going against the scout team was entirely different," he said. "We had a couple of mental lapses, wrecked assignments. We've had to work on a lot of little things this week."

Coach Charlie Weatherbie said he believes Navy made "a lot of improvement from the first half to the second half" in the opener and will continue this week. "Every team improves the most from the first to second game."

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