Mids' mishaps get special attention

Priority is put on fixing shoddy special teams play

Navy notebook

College Football

September 11, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

The first game of the season, Navy coach Paul Johnson described his special teams play as "borderline horrendous."

Little did he know, the worst was yet to come.

Against N.C. State, the Mids fumbled a kickoff (which was returned for a touchdown), missed an extra point and saw two punts blocked (both of which resulted in Wolfpack touchdowns). Just about whatever could go wrong did. Navy has a week off before its next game against Northwestern, and first on the agenda will be finding a way to shore up its most glaring weakness thus far.

"We're going to continue to practice [special teams]; that's all we can do," Johnson said. "Try to work through the mistakes and get better. ... We've made a few personnel changes, but it's not that easy. We have to do a better job of coaching the techniques."

Special teams coach Kevin Kelly is off recruiting this week, as are several of Navy's coaches, so Johnson likely will oversee firsthand just how things get fixed.

"We've got coaches assigned to each special team, but it's everybody," he said. "It's me, put it at my doorstep; I'm the head coach."

No one had a better perspective of just how bad things were Saturday than punter John Skaggs. After his first punt was stuffed by Wolfpack safety Terrance Holt, he figured it was just a missed block and things would be fine next time. But when Holt blocked another punt in the third quarter, Skaggs decided to shorten his normal three-step kicking routine to a two-step routine, sacrificing potential yardage simply so that he could get the ball away quicker.

"My last punt, I got off in 1.6 seconds," Skaggs said. "That's unheard of. My average time is normally about 2.1 or somewhere in there. But Coach was telling me, `If you get it off in 1.6, no matter how bad the blocking is, the punt shouldn't get blocked. If that's what I have to do, I will."

Coping with a rout

Senior captain Josh Brindel didn't hesitate to call his teammates together Sunday night for a players-only meeting. Several Mids stood up and spoke, and the team tried to figure out just how to recover from a 65-19 loss.

"We kind of asked ourselves, `Where are we going from here?' " Brindel said. "This is what defines our team, right here. We can give up and do nothing, or we can hope that getting beat that bad will motivate us to play better."

In some respects, Navy didn't just roll over once it got down 21-0 in the first four minutes. The Mids rallied for two first-half touchdowns, and at one point they had the ball and were trailing only 28-12. That might not have happened last year, when Navy went 0-10.

"We had a chance; we just didn't take advantage of it," Brindel said. "We came into the game pretty high and pretty pumped up, so to get knocked off our rocker like that definitely takes you down a notch. We just had to get together and reaffirm our commitment to each other. I think we got a lot of things worked out, and you could see that in practice [Monday]."

Et cetera

Johnson said there is no word yet on the severity of the injury suffered by Navy defensive lineman Kevin Schwind, who left the N.C. State game with a knee injury. ... Seven of the eight times Navy has been inside the opponent's 20-yard line this year, it has scored a touchdown. ... Defensive lineman Steve Adair missed his second straight game for "violating academy rules." ... Navy's Sept. 21 game against Northwestern will mark just the third time the schools have met. The teams were supposed to play last season, but the game was canceled after the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks.

Next for Navy

Opponent:Northwestern (0-2) Site:Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When:Sept. 21, noon

TV/Radio:No TV/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM), WTEM (980 AM)

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