Mids looking to get up to speed earlier

Slow starts have doomed team in all but one game

Navy notebook

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

If Navy is going to give Notre Dame any kind of a football game Saturday, it is imperative to avoid the sluggish beginnings that have helped to sabotage the winless Midshipmen.

Navy has been outscored 174-59 in the first half this season and was swamped by that bugaboo again last Saturday, falling behind Tulane 21-0 before losing, 42-28.

"I think we'll have to be very aggressive against them right from the beginning," said interim coach Rick Lantz. "Hopefully, we'll get over to a better start than we have."

Only in one game-at Toledo-have the Midshipmen led at halftime. They seem to have been playing catchup from the opener.

Most of the players said after the early defeats that getting into the flow, finding the speed of the game, was the problem. Adaptation to new defensive and offensive schemes this season were also mentioned.

Now, eight games into the season, explanations are tough to find.

"When the ball is kicked off, we have to be ready," said linebacker Ben Matthews. "We've got to work on coming out hard for the game. I don't know why this has happened."

"It's usually taken us about a quarter to wake up," said safety Paul Clarkson. "But I think it'll be different Saturday. I think we'll come to play whistle to whistle."

Smiling through

Notre Dame coach Bob Davie is under fire from the school's famous "subway alumni" because of the team's record, but he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

"I've got a little bit of pulse left," said Davie. "They haven't thrown the final shovel of dirt on me yet. I'm still kicking. But the bottom line is we're 3-5.

"It doesn't matter that we played in a BCS game last year [Fiesta Bowl] or that the last two football teams have had the highest GPAs [grade-point averages] in Notre Dame history. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen."

Davie signed a five-year contract through 2005 after last season.

The Irish opened with losses to a Nebraska team that had already played twice, Michigan State at home and Texas A&M. They recovered to win three straight, then lost at Boston College and to Tennessee in South Bend.

Family ties

Alumni will be featured at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, and it will be a special time for Matthews.

His grandfather, Bill Gompers, a running back on national champions at Notre Dame in 1946 and 1947, will be filled with divided loyalties.

"They're making a big deal about all the alumni," said Matthews. "It'll be kind of fun. My grandfather will be pulling for me, but he's not sure who to root for."

Et cetera

Navy has not beaten Notre Dame since 1963, the year Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy. The 37 straight wins by one team over another is an NCAA record. "Yes, I think we ought to play them," said Lantz. "And I think Navy will have the opportunity as long as it wants. There is a feeling of loyalty between the two schools." ... The game will be nationally televised by NBC starting at 2:30 p.m.

Next for Navy

Opponent: Notre Dame

Site: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 11, 4/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

Line: Notre Dame by 27 1/2

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