Mids look for some luck against Air Force

Johnson says DeBerry, 4-0 Falcons don't need any

Navy notebook

College Football

October 03, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Even when he was a slow, undersized 17-year-old high school football player growing up in small-town Newland, N.C., Navy coach Paul Johnson knew all about FisherDeBerry.

DeBerry, you see, was just 20 miles down the road, coaching at Appalachian State in Boone, S.C., fine-tuning an option offense that would eventually help him get the head coaching job at Air Force. These days, only Joe Paterno (Penn State) and Bobby Bowden (Florida State) have been coaching at their current schools longer than DeBerry, who has been at Air Force 19 years.

Though the two men like each other, don't expect Johnson to wish DeBerry luck this week when Navy and Air Force meet on the football field Saturday in Colorado Springs.

"I've known him a long time; he's a good guy," Johnson said. "He doesn't need any luck. Right now, they've had it all. Shoot, we're the ones that need some luck."

So far this year, it seems that the Falcons can do no wrong. Air Force is 4-0, and that includes a Sept. 21 win over then-No. 23 ranked Cal. Last week, Air Force overcame a 20-point halftime deficit and beat Utah, 30-26. As a reward, the Falcons, ranked No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, are 23-point favorites against the Midshipmen. Air Force has won five straight games in the series and seven of the past eight.

"I don't know if we have a chance," Johnson said. "We'll see. I guarantee you that if we play like we did the last three weeks, we won't have a chance."

Perhaps in part because of the tradition involved, games between Navy and Air Force are usually close contests despite the fact that the Falcons clearly have a more established program. Last season, Air Force escaped FedEx Field with a 24-18 victory, and in 1999 the Falcons won just 19-14.

"I think that any time you are playing another service academy, it's a big game." Johnson said. "Certainly Air Force is an outstanding team. It will be a big, big challenge."

Adair back in action

Defensive end Steve Adair finally returned to action last week after being suspended for the first three weeks of the season for "violating Academy rules." Adair, a 6-foot-2, 253-pound junior, is the backup to senior Dan Person at left defensive end. He played sparingly against Duke, but should provide Navy with more depth in the coming weeks. Adair continued practicing with the team during his suspension.

"He played some and I thought he did some good things," Johnson said. "He's been practicing the whole time, so hopefully he's in pretty good shape. It gives us some more depth there and a bigger body."

Et cetera

Navy has not won the Commander in Chief's Trophy - given to the winner of the football competition among Army, Navy and Air Force each year - since 1981. Air Force has won it 15 times since 1972, the first year the trophy was awarded, and is 16-2 under DeBerry against the Midshipmen. ... Navy sophomore wide receiver Lionel Wesley used a strong performance last week against Duke (three catches, 39 yards) to move ahead of Amir Jenkins on the depth chart. Jenkins started games against Northwestern and Duke. ... The Mids are giving up 41 points and 425 yards a game, compared with 44.3 points and 467.8 yards a game through four games in 2001.

Next for Navy

Opponent:Air Force (4-0)

Site:Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, Colo.

When:Saturday, 3 p.m.

Radio:WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line:Air Force by 23

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