Navy's bid for win doesn't get easier vs. Toledo tonight

Rockets expected to be fired up for 0-6 Mids after having win streak ended

College Football

October 27, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

It has been a season in which both original captains have missed significant playing time - quarterback Brian Madden because of a two-game suspension and linebacker Jake Bowen because of a foot injury.

It has been a season in which the Naval Academy was totally embarrassed at home by Georgia Tech, 70-7 - the worst defeat in the program's storied history.

It has been a season in which the Midshipmen have improved during their last three games, only to be undone by untimely mistakes - both mental and physical - including penalties; an inability to prosper in the red zone, and a lack of big plays by the defense.

And matters don't figure to improve much tonight when the 0-6 Mids take another stab at their first victory in Toledo's Glass Bowl.

Navy couldn't have caught the Rockets at a more inopportune time, as they're coming off an upset loss to Ball State that ended a 12-game winning streak and hopes for an unbeaten season and threw the Mid-American Conference race into a scramble.

So it has gone for the Midshipmen, whose only win in the last two seasons was over Army at PSINet Stadium.

Navy must shed the habit of "feeling our way around the first half," according to coach Charlie Weatherbie. "We're thinking too much and trying to play perfectly."

As a result, the team has fallen behind in winnable games against Air Force, Rice and Rutgers, then has rallied, but has found the deficits too great to erase.

Toledo is a quality opponent that fell behind last season at Navy, only to come back strongly for an impressive, 35-14 victory. Among the Rockets' victims in the last four years are Purdue, Penn State and Minnesota.

The Navy defense - which has accounted for just six sacks and three interceptions - will have a major chore trying to deal with Toledo quarterback Tavares Bolden and tailback Chester Taylor.

"Bolden kind of reminds me of Chris McCoy," said Weatherbie, referring to the former Navy quarterback who ran so well, "and Taylor is an All-American type."

Taylor has been banged up, but is returning to full strength just in time for Navy and his team's homecoming.

On the other side, Toledo ranks eighth nationally in total defense and ninth against the run.

"They're very balanced and a very goodm seasoned bunch of players," said Weatherbie.

Another poor first-half start will probably bring more woes, so Navy must overcome its trend toward early lethargy, establish a threat on the ground and use its effective kicking game.

Time is running out, with one game canceled and only Tulane, Notre Dame and Army left after this week.

"We can give up or try to win the next four," said punter John Skaggs, No. 4 nationally. "A victory would do a lot to get our confidence back up."

Next for Navy

Opponent: Toledo (5-1)

Site: Glass Bowl, Toledo, Ohio

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WMAL (630 M)

Line: Toledo by 28 1/2

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