Madden's been close to ending `The Streak'

Navy QB remembers '99, hopes to finish Irish today

College Football

November 17, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Around the Naval Academy, it is known simply as "The Streak."

Thirty-seven consecutive defeats to Notre Dame and counting. A few close calls, but mostly lopsided losses in a series that has produced an NCAA record for domination in the longest continuous intersectional game in the nation.

Two seasons ago marked one of the closest calls when a rookie quarterback named Brian Madden and a junior safety named Chris Lepore almost led Navy to a stunning victory before a questionable spot by the line judge after a fourth-down play allowed the Irish to continue their march to the winning touchdown in a 28-24 decision.

Lepore is gone now, but Madden returns today at Notre Dame Stadium when the winless Midshipmen again try to reverse the stampede in a nationally televised game.

"I think if we could go out winning this one and the next [Army Dec. 1), our seniors would be able to leave with some good memories," said Madden, who rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown in the 1999 matchup.

"Everybody wants to be in the group that ends this streak. Eventually it's going to happen; you just want to be someone who can say you helped end it."

Navy is catching Notre Dame at a fortuitous time. The Irish have struggled to a 3-5 record, losing their past two, have a spotty passing attack and have lost 19 turnovers.

Unfortunately for the Midshipmen, they have a bucketful of their own problems, including slow starts - outscored 174-59 in the first half - a porous defense that has permitted 487 yards and 35.5 points a game and an inability to win the close ones, losing 12 of 14 decided by seven or fewer points.

And they have lost the surprise element with Madden, one of the top quarterback runners in America.

"It's going to be a lot different this time," said Madden. "The last time out there I didn't know what to expect, and they didn't know what to expect from me. It was kind of a surprise for everybody.

"Now people know what to expect from me."

Despite the results, Navy's players love the opportunity to go against one of the country's legendary programs on national TV and in a storied stadium.

"This game is good for the program," said Madden. "We're kind of at a disadvantage as far as recruiting goes, and for some guys, it's a draw knowing they're going into an atmosphere like Notre Dame. Obviously, we've got to win sometimes to have a better chance to get them."

"This week, the streak permeates the yard. It's something that's always brought to our attention," said senior defensive end Michael Wagoner. "But as a team, we have to think the other years don't mean a thing about what's going to happen this year."

"We hear about it from kids in the hall," said junior guard Matt Nye. "Other than that, we try not to think about it."

Madden knows that Navy must limit its mistakes offensively, hope Notre Dame can't do the same and get some luck to beat a four-touchdown favorite.

Interim coach Rick Lantz needs no motivational tools for Navy this week.

"A lot of kids come to Navy specifically to compete against Notre Dame," he said. "The players ought to get themselves excited for this game. If not, we're going to do blood counts."

Close calls

Navy has lost 37 straight games to Notre Dame, but has come close on a number of occasions. The closest calls:

Year......Result

1974.....Notre Dame 14, Navy 6

1976.....Notre Dame 27, Navy 21

1984.....Notre Dame 18, Navy 17

1997.....Notre Dame 21, Navy 17

1999.....Notre Dame 28, Navy 24

Navy today

Opponent: Notre Dame (3-5)

Site: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

When: 2:30 p.m.

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

Line: Notre Dame by 27 1/2

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