Recent history gives Navy hope

Mids brace for BC today

rally in 1998 gave Navy a 32-31 upset of Eagles

October 19, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Navy coach Paul Johnson didn't tap dance around it this week. To beat Boston College today, just about everything would have to go right for the Mids. In addition, just about everything would have to go wrong for the Eagles.

Navy (1-5) has lost five straight, while Boston College's only losses have come against No. 1 Miami, and No. 3 Virginia Tech. The Mids enter the game as a 28 1/2 -point underdog.

"I'm sure they don't sweat us, and if I was them, I probably wouldn't, either," Johnson said.

Recent history would suggest that wouldn't be the ideal approach for the Eagles (3-2). In 1998, Boston College took a 28-10 lead into the fourth quarter at home against Navy. But the Mids stormed back and outscored the Eagles 22-3 in the final period to pull off a 32-31 shocker. Navy will need to conjure up some of that magic to have a chance. Since that loss, the only teams to beat Boston College in Alumni Stadium are Notre Dame, Miami and Virginia Tech.

"We have to play better than we've played all year," Johnson said. "They have a great football team. We've got to do all the little things, take care of the ball, and hopefully get some breaks."

The best way to do that would be to get some interceptions. Navy has only two on the year, and both came in the Mids' opening win against SMU. Eagles quarterback Brian St. Pierre has tossed nine this season, including three in last week's 28-23 loss to Virginia Tech.

"They have top-10 talent, I can guarantee you that," Johnson said. "If we aren't ready to play it could get ugly."

Because of a series of injuries to the Eagles' defensive line (starters Antonio Garay and Doug Goodwin were lost for the year last week), Navy could potentially get its running game back on track this week. Though the Mids rushed for a season-low 111 yards against Rice, they did have some success moving the ball against N.C. State (243 rushing yards), a team that is likely more talented than Boston College.

"We practice [defending the option] every preseason," Boston College coach Tim O'Brien said. "It's obviously a big concern for us this week. You have to play assignment football."

That means stuffing the fullback dive every play, something Rice did effectively last week. Navy seldom tried to get the ball to its slotbacks on the outside against the Owls, preferring to give the ball to fullback Kyle Eckel. The strategy helped prevent turnovers, but it also reduced Navy's chances for a big play.

"I can never remember having so many lost yardage plays in the running game," Johnson said of Navy's game against Rice. "Our load blocking was atrocious by our slots. We just didn't play well, probably the worst game we've played all year offensively."

Boston College can counter with an impressive linebacking corps. Middle linebacker Vinny Ciurciu and outside linebackers Josh Ott and Brian Flores are the heart of the Eagles' defense and will be chasing Navy quarterback Craig Candeto all afternoon. Candeto leads Navy with 494 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

Despite the frustration of five straight losses, Johnson says the Mids are still focused on the big picture.

"What I've tried to tell our guys is that we are halfway through the season and we still have half left," Johnson said. "Let's put that first half behind us and let's get ready to play the second half. ... Are we disappointed? Would we like to do better? Sure. But, I think you have to stay focused on the ring at the end and [understand] we're trying to build a program."

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