Navy's battle with fumbles resumes against Tulane

Even so, Mids' offense concerns Green Wave

October 26, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Consider, for a moment, all the ways Navy has managed to fumble this year.

They've dropped pitches and bobbled tosses. They've bungled snaps. They've fumbled on kickoffs. They've caught long passes, only to fumble while getting tackled, and they've caught short passes, only to fumble while avoiding tackles. The Mids have fumbled at home and they've fumbled on the road. They've fumbled on first down, and they've fumbled on fourth down. No team in the country has had as many lost fumbles (19) as Navy.

Yet through it all, Navy's offense has managed to be productive. The Mids are averaging 385 yards a game and are fourth in the country in rushing at 272.1 yards a contest. If Navy (1-6) could somehow manage to hold onto the ball, could an upset of Tulane (5-3) today be a possibility? Green Wave coach Chris Scelfo says so.

"When you look at tape on Navy, they're running up 450 yards a game," Scelfo said. "Their Achilles' heel has been turnovers. We learned that against East Carolina (a 24-20 loss). They turned the ball over nine times before they played us, then didn't turn it over once in our game. We have to go out and expect to win the game from our side, not expect [Navy] to help us."

Tulane's offense isn't prolific, but it does have a potent weapon in running back Mewelde Moore. The 6-foot-1 junior needs 56 yards to pass Eddie Price to become Tulane's all-time leading rusher, and he has 14 career 100-yard games and has rushed for 729 yards this season while adding another 260 receiving.

"There's no question he's the key to the game," Navy coach Paul Johnson said of Moore. "He's a quality football player, not only in the running game but in the passing game as well. They have a lot of ways to try and get him the ball and I'm sure they are going to try and isolate him and get him the ball a lot. He's a great player."

Slowing Moore will be no easy task. Navy ranks 114th out of 117 Division I teams in rush defense, giving up an average of 251.9 yards a game. Still, Moore expects the Mids to be tough.

"These guys are guys that after they finish their degrees, they're going to go out and protect our country," Moore said. "It's bred into them that they are going to be hungry. I think every day they wake up, they're hungry to do something and achieve something."

Complicating matters has been the high number of injuries on the Mids' defense. Defensive tackle Josh Brindel is likely out for the season with a neck injury, as is linebacker Dustin Elliott (ankle). Freshman Jeremy Chase will likely get his first career start at middle linebacker this week.

"I think it's been frustrating," Johnson said. "There's no question injuries hurt your football team. I don't know that we had a lot of depth to start with and we've lost a lot of guys, but that's football. You don't whine about it, you just go on and play."

Navy's best weapon is still savvy junior quarterback Craig Candeto. Though he's been knocked out of the Mids' last two games with injuries, he's back in the lineup this week and is Navy's most consistent offensive threat with 557 yards and eight touchdowns.

NOTE: Navy has not defeated a team that finished with a winning record since 1997.

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