Physical B.C. team to test ailing defense

Improvised lineup facing Big East's hottest passer

Navy notebook

College Football

October 17, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Two things were obvious about Navy in its 17-10 loss to Rice last week: The Mids' defense played its best game since the Week 1 win over Southern Methodist, and most fans needed a roster to identify the guys making tackles.

After giving up 48 points and 536 yards against Air Force, Navy used six different starters on defense against Rice. Michawn Yuvienco and Lane Jackson started for the first time in their careers, and middle linebacker Dustin Elliott, defensive end Ralph Henry, defensive tackle Andy Zetts and safety Josh Smith made rare starts.

Part of the change was a new scheme Navy was running, but a big part of it was injuries. The Mids (1-5) are getting banged up more and more each week, so defensive coordinator Buddy Green has had to improvise. Starting safeties Lenter Thomas and Eli Sanders have missed games, as have defensive tackle Josh Brindel, middle linebacker Andy Sinitiere, and defensive lineman Kevin Schwind.

Even the players Green has plugged into the lineup are experiencing injuries. Zetts is doubtful for Saturday's game at Boston College (3-2), and so is Elliott, despite coming off a game in which he made 13 tackles, recorded two sacks and recovered a fumble.

"I'm having some problems with my neck," Elliott said. "I want to play, but the trainers say I'm probably out, so I've got to listen to them."

Sinitiere should return to his spot in the middle, and sophomore defensive lineman Babatunde Akingbemi might get his first career start in place of Zetts. But it's unclear what defense Navy will line up with this week against the Eagles. The Mids had success shutting down Rice's running game with three defensive linemen and five defensive backs, but Boston College quarterback Brian St. Pierre leads the Big East in passing with 236 yards a game.

"We have to do some things," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "We just have to play our defense. I'm not going to tell you how we're going to line up. We have to try and find a way to line up that is going to give us a chance. They are an awfully physical team."

Physical and talented. If not for a few missed tackles, Boston College could have beaten No. 3 Virginia Tech last week.

"The only teams that beat them are the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country," Johnson said. "If they run the table and their only losses were to Miami and Virginia Tech, it would be hard to say there's a lot of teams better than them."

Offense on the brink

Navy's offense might be struggling right now, but it also might be close to a breakthrough.

At least, that's the way Johnson sees it. Even though the Mids gained a season-low 205 yards against Rice, Johnson said he felt the muddy field was a big part of Navy's struggle and there were a number of plays where one poor block prevented things from breaking open.

"In 18 years or running this offense, I don't know if I've ever had just 111 yards rushing in a game," Johnson said. "We had all kinds of opportunities, if you watch the tape. There are probably 10-12 plays on the option that we were inches from breaking it for a touchdown, but we didn't make the play. A different guy would miss a block, or we would do something funky. ... It was probably the worst game we've played all year offensively."

Et cetera

Quarterback Craig Candeto, nursing a deep thigh bruise, sat out Monday but practiced the past two days and should play. ... Slot back Tony Lane, who didn't start against Rice after fumbling problems, has earned his way back into the lineup, Johnson said. ... Brindel will sit out his third straight game with a neck injury.

Next for Navy

Opponent:Boston College

Site:Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

When:Saturday, noon

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

Line:Boston College by 28 1/2

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.