Navy can't break through, loses, 23-17

Mids score just 3 points on 3 drives to Rutgers 5

College Football

October 21, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Not even the birthplace of college football was enough to bring new life to the winless -- and lately luckless --Naval Academy team yesterday.

In what was virtually a reprise of the previous week's defeat to Rice, the Midshipmen fell behind by three touchdowns at halftime, rallied furiously to within striking distance and lost in the end, 23-17, on Rutgers' homecoming.

The defeat was the 16th in the past 17 games for Navy (0-6) and ended even the faint chance for a break-even season.

As usual, it was a team effort that caused the downfall, particularly before halftime when Rutgers twice burned the Navy defense with lengthy, backbreaking touchdown passes. And the Midshipmen responded on offense by twice failing to score after penetrating inside the Scarlet Knights' 10 before halftime.

Rutgers freshman quarterback Ryan Cubit, who passed for a career-best 327 yards and three touchdowns, threw almost-identical scoring passes of 91 and 80 yards to Aaron Martin to build the early lead to 20 points.

"We ran so many play-action passes in the flat to L.J. [tight end L.J. Smith], their cornerback started biting up," said Cubit. "Once he did that, the deep ball was open."

Although Navy has restricted its past four opponents to 16 second-half points, the halftime deficit again proved insurmountable. A Dan Person interception and an Eric Severson recovery of a Cubit fumble at the Rutgers 3 led to two touchdowns and David Hills added a 27-yard field goal.

But Rutgers (2-5) capitalized on favorable field position late in the game to finally put it away on Ryan Sands' 30-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining.

With no timeouts left, Navy managed an apparent first down on the final drive, but was whistled for a holding penalty that smothered any remaining momentum.

Earlier --- for the third time in the game -- the Midshipmen moved within 6 yards of the end zone, and this time settled for a field goal. For the day, Navy amassed three points on three marches to the Rutgers 5.

"You just can't do that and beat anybody," said quarterback Brian Madden, who rushed for a season-high 128 yards and passed for 125 more. "We thought we could come in here and really put it to them.

"But we've got to stop stupid penalties with the game on the line and start executing inside the red zone. The last four games we have to stop talking and do something about it."

The Scarlet Knights, a young team in a rebuilding mode under first-year coach Greg Schiano, have captured seven of the past nine meetings with Navy, whose only victory in the past two years was over Army in Baltimore.

As is expected of an inexperienced group, Rutgers made a slew of mistakes itself, being assessed 143 yards on 18 penalties and setting up two Navy touchdowns with its 26th and 27th turnovers of the year.

"It wasn't easy, but it sure feels good to get off that little streak we were having [five losses in a row]," said Schiano. "I am really proud of our football team. There were a lot of chances in the second half where things swung away from us in the momentum department.

"Our kids could have thought the worst and lost the edge. But they gave tremendous effort and stayed true to the plan."

Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie looked like a spent man after the team's 11th loss in its past 13 games decided by seven points or fewer.

"At the end we just ran out of time," he said. "We had a chance to win. In the second half, we came out and played together as a team. We've got to continue to keep fighting, and we're going to turn this thing around."

Now, the Midshipmen must visit a Toledo team, which was upset yesterday by Ball State and will likely fall out of the Top 25. That should have the Rockets snarling.

It's that kind of a season for Navy.

Navy 0 0 7 10 -- 17

Rutgers 13 7 0 3 -- 23

Next for Navy

Opponent: No. 25 Toledo

Site: Glass Bowl, Toledo, Ohio

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Record: 5-1

Yesterday: Lost to Ball State, 24-20

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