Sometimes at Navy, tradition can get in the way of progress, and that's certainly true in matters relating to football. So when asked this week if a win over rival Army would mean Navy had completed a successful season, coach Paul Johnson gave his most honest answer.
"No," he said. "It's a great rivalry and certainly it would be a way to at least end on a positive note. If we could win the game, it would be twice as many wins as they've had here the last two years, which is by no means a successful season. We have to do more than try to beat Army to be successful."
That's a different approach than Navy (1-10) has taken in recent years. While Johnson has acknowledged the magnitude of Saturday's game against Army (1-10), he's been careful not to try to spin things.
The winner will have bragging rights for a year, but bragging rights would not erase the sting of a 2-10 record.
"We are just starting to get the program rebuilt," Johnson said. "It would be great for us going into recruiting and the offseason with a win and some momentum, so it's an important game for us. Win or lose, we still have a long way to go."
Navy is unsure which fullback it will use against Army, but for the first time in a while the Mids will have several healthy options.
Kyle Eckel and Bryce McDonald are expected to play after missing time with injuries. However, in their absence, sophomore Michael Brimage may have passed both of them on the depth chart with a 171-yard rushing day against Wake Forest in only his third varsity game.
It was the first time this season a Mids fullback had rushed for 100 or more yards. Johnson said he'll go with Eckel or Brimage as the starter, but won't decide until game day.
Air game helps
Navy's running game got a much-needed boost against Wake Forest as Brimage, Tony Lane, Eric Roberts and Craig Candeto helped the Mids rush for 317 yards. But part of what opened things up was Navy's passing efficiency.
Candeto, who was completing just 46 percent of his passes coming in, went 7-for-11 for 156 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard bomb to Chandler Sims. Both touchdown catches were by wide receivers, marking the first time this season a wide-out has been in the end zone.
Navy senior offensive guard Grant Moody was named to the Verizon Academic All-America second team this week by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Moody, a quantitative economics major, carries a 3.93 GPA and has been a starter the past two seasons for the Mids. He missed two days of practice this week while interviewing for a Rhodes Scholarship.
Before practice in New Jersey tomorrow, Navy's football team will visit Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center buildings, in Manhattan.
"It's something I've wanted to do and I think it's appropriate for these guys to go," Johnson said. "It means something to them, to see what they're doing and what they're fighting for."