Navy hopes familiarity translates to victory

Mids are well-schooled in Rice's option offense

October 13, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The improving but still winless Naval Academy football team receives a genuine opportunity for a breakthrough today when it plays host to surprising Rice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Not only do the Midshipmen (0-4) have the additional incentive of a homecoming crowd to spur them on, but their beleaguered defense - which has given up 174 points this season - will see an option-oriented attack similar to both their own and Air Force, their opponent last week.

"There are a lot of similarities between us except for the military aspect," said Navy linebacker Andy Sinitire. "Their players are a lot like ours."

Said Navy defensive end Dan Person: "Following the Air Force game, their offense makes it a little easier to practice for."

Rice's veteran coach Ken Hatfield "doesn't particularly like being everybody's homecoming opponent. It seems like that brings out the best in them."

A near-capacity crowd is expected, and Navy's players will receive pep talks from former Navy players.

"Last week, Napoleon McCallum came to our hotel before the Air Force game and gave us a little talk," said Person. "That gets you pumped up to represent them."

Still, the chore will not be an easy one with Rice (4-1) off to its best start in 60 years, with its only defeat to powerful Nebraska.

Rice's basic scheme is the spread option, but it employs many variations - a shotgun, wishbone, veer, single-wing and even the West Coast offense. They also scrap the huddle on most series.

But in general, the Owls are runners. Their rushing attack has ranked in the top 11 nationally five consecutive seasons and currently stands at No. 2 behind Nebraska. They ran the ball 82 times last week against Boise State, a school record.

Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie believes his team "is hungry for success, a victory. We had a chance last week, but didn't find a way. We got some penalties through an over-aggression, effort. We've got to play smart."

NOTE: Security measures will again be in force at the game although the re-entry rule has been relaxed. Re-entry to the stadium will be permitted at one gate on each side of the field.

Recreational vehicles will be required to park on the outer edge of the perimeter.

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