Navy makes strides, still stumbles against Boston College, 38-21

Eagles take advantage of Madden's miscues

College Football

September 23, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

In an atmosphere of tightened security measures, somber patriotic gestures and long waits at the gates, the Naval Academy football team was reunited with its inspirational leader yesterday.

Unfortunately for the Midshipmen, senior quarterback Brian Madden's return wasn't enough to subdue Boston College, and they tumbled to their third straight defeat, 38-21, before 30,060 spectators at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

But Navy (0-3) was a much improved football team, responding positively to its first game since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

Navy took its first lead of the season when Madden guided the offense 69 yards in 10 plays to a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. By the second possession, Madden had already become the team's leading rusher for the season.

Only three first-half Navy turnovers - two of which were converted into Eagles touchdowns - separated the teams until Boston College ground out a 15-play, 86-yard touchdown drive that consumed most of the third period and settled the outcome.

"I think in the coming weeks you'll see a lot of No. 8 [Madden] and a better Navy football team," said the ebullient Madden, who rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and passed for 124 yards and a touchdown. "I was very comfortable out there. But the rust showed in my turnovers."

Madden threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the first half. "You can't give the ball up at your 35 or 40 and put your defense in a bad position," Madden said. "If I eliminate [the turnovers], we're probably up at halftime. I can improve upon that performance."

Madden hadn't played in a game since steering the Midshipmen past Army, 19-9, in 1999, and being named the Most Valuable Player. Madden was 3-2 as the starter that season and led the nation's quarterbacks in rushing before subsequently missing 2000 with a wrecked knee and the first two games of this season under disciplinary suspension.

He stepped front and center once the game started, after the fans had stepped into a milieu that included metal detectors and searches at the gates and hour-long delays that kept nearly half the crowd out of the stadium at kickoff .

When the game ended, BC and Navy players convened to sing "God Bless America" before the playing of the schools' respective alma maters. When the game began, the march-on of the brigade and the flyover by F-5s in a missing man formation were particularly poignant.

There was a moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks, which included eight Navy graduates and seven alums of Boston College confirmed dead.

The Eagles (2-1) capitalized on an interception of Madden to go 39 yards to tie the game at 7, then took a 14-7 advantage when William Green (178 yards on 33 carries) broke into the clear and split the two Navy safeties en route to a 58-yard scoring run.

With Madden in control, the Midshipmen came right back to tie at 14 on an 80-yard scoring drive, converting a fourth-down play at the BC 22. Madden plunged a yard for his first score in 21 months.

But with Green picking up 6, 7 and 8 yards a try, the Eagles took the lead for good on a 25-yard scoring pass from Brian St. Pierre to former Navy wide receiver Ryan Read.

Two series later, Madden threw another interception and St. Pierre connected with Green from the Navy 13 on a busted play to put the Eagles ahead, 28-14.

The second time it touched the ball in the third quarter, Boston College converted a third-and-14, a third-and-two and a third-and-eight situation en route to the clinching score.

"Navy was an entirely different team than the first two weeks of the season, with Brian Madden at quarterback," said BC coach Tom O`Brien. "We knew if he was the quarterback, their offense would be effective. He is a big, powerful man."

Navy's offense gained some respect. Now, all the Midshipmen have to do is figure out how to stop the opposing offense more often and they might have something.

"I think we made strides today and had a great effort," said Navy linebacker Ryan Hamilton. "We have to make a big play once in a while and get us off the field."

Said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie: "I believe this team has made a great step forward. We have become more physical. I think we're headed in the right direction."

BC 7 21 7 3 - 38

Navy 7 7 0 7 - 21

Next for Navy

Opponent: Air Force

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

When: Oct. 6, noon

Record: 1-1

Yesterday: Idle

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