Off to best start since '60, Rice keeps Navy out of sorts, 21-13

0-5 Midshipmen have lost 15 of their past 16 games

College Football

October 14, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Home may be where the heart is, but for the Naval Academy football team, it is definitely not the site for success.

A homecoming audience of 29,106 came to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium yesterday anticipating the Midshipmen's first win of the season. Instead, they watched a replay of so many other games of the past two years.

In a contest that required only 2 hours, 46 minutes, favored Rice forged an 18-point lead and staved off Navy, 21-13, to prolong its best start since 1960.

It was the eighth straight home defeat and 15th in the past 16 games overall for Navy (0-5), which again undermined its chances with untimely penalties, unwise decisions and a lack of cohesion among its offensive and defensive units.

Rice (5-1) has lost only to powerful Nebraska.

"It seems like the same story every week," said Navy quarterback Brian Madden, who was rationed to under 100 yards rushing for the first time in his eight-game starting career.

"We're a better football team than the last two we've played, but we have to come together and start having fun. I get tired of walking out of here and hearing, `Good game, you're that close.' "

Actually, Madden probably tried to do too much, carrying the ball 34 times for 94 yards and sometimes forcing plays that weren't there.

The Midshipmen and Madden had a final chance to tie with the clock running down. Rice was at the Navy 12 when Midshipmen linebacker Eddie Carthan forced a fumble on an intended pitch.

Safety Matt Brooks picked up the loose ball and rambled to the Rice 47 before being caught from behind by Owls running back Leroy Bradley.

The Navy offense had 1:35 to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion to force overtime. A Madden scramble, an incomplete pass, a holding penalty against Navy, another incompletion and a Madden dash followed, combining for 2 yards.

Rice then ran out the clock.

"I made a bad decision on the first play. I should have thrown the ball to the fullback," Madden said. "I have to make good decisions there. That was costly. As an offensive unit we didn't come through, and that separates us from being a 4-1 team.

"This wasn't the best game I ever played. The mental mistakes didn't give us an opportunity to win."

Brooks, too, was hard on himself, shouldering the blame for two of Rice's first-half touchdowns, both via the pass from Kyle Herm, his first passing scores of the season.

"I gave up two big plays," Brooks said. `That's 14 points and the difference in the game. I think I take the brunt of the responsibility for this one."

The Navy defense turned in its premier effort of the year in the second half, shutting out an Owls attack that ranks second nationally in rushing.

But it wasn't enough to overcome that unit's first-half generosity and a Navy offense that sputtered and stalled and settled for two field goals on the game's first drive and the first half's last.

On one promising possession, Navy was stopped by a personal foul penalty and punted. An illegal procedure foul and a sack halted another. The holder was missing on a field-goal formation another time, and then a fake kick failed.

All the mistakes accumulated until there was no chance of winning at home for the first time since beating Tulane on Nov. 13, 1999.

"It's frustrating to lose anywhere," Madden said. "We bust our butts every day. We deserve to win. What we need to do is believe it."

Rice 7 14 0 0 - 21

Navy 3 3 0 7 - 13

Next for Navy

Opponent: Rutgers

Site: Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Record: 1-5

Yesterday: Lost to Temple, 30-5

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