Painful past keeps Navy from being complacent

Mids delighted with 4-2, but experience teaches them to assume nothing

College Football

October 14, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Seniors Craig Candeto and Eddie Carthan have been down for too long to get too caught up in the excitement that suddenly is part of Navy football again.

Yes, Saturday's 37-27 victory at Vanderbilt, Navy's first road victory of the year and first over a current Southeastern Conference opponent since a defeat of South Carolina in 1984, was huge. Yes, the 4-2 Midshipmen have reached the season's midpoint by positioning themselves to record their first winning season since 1997.

And yes, Navy could become eligible for a bowl-game invitation with three more victories. The Midshipmen, who last advanced to the postseason when they won the Aloha Bowl in 1996, have been to three bowl games in the past 24 years.

But veterans such as Candeto and Carthan, Navy's co-captains at quarterback and outside linebacker, have seen life on the dark side enough to know how fleeting such joy can be.

They suffered through a 3-30 record over the previous three seasons. And they said the Midshipmen will not be concentrating on anything this week besides winning Saturday at Rice (1-4).

"The only good thing that possibly comes out of all of the losing we've done is that when we start winning, it keeps everybody humble and down to earth," Carthan said. "It can get bad real fast, I promise you that. We've lived it."

"For us to be 4-2, we've put ourselves in a good position for the rest of the season. By no means should we be looking any farther than Rice this week," Candeto said. "There's talk about bowl games right now, but we've only won four ball games. It can easily turn as bad as it has been good for us, if we don't keep our focus."

The Mids continue to patch up their offensive line successfully. On Saturday, junior Tyson Stahl started the first game of his career at right tackle, while senior Sean Magee, one week removed from his first career start, had to replace senior right guard Josh Goodin (knee sprain) early at Vanderbilt.

Goodin, normally the right tackle, had moved inside after guard Shane Todd had taken over a week earlier at center for August Roitsch. He is out for the year with a left foot injury.

Navy still rolled up 502 yards of offense, including 342 yards rushing.

"We're beat up everywhere, but our assistant coaches have done a great job of juggling everywhere," Navy coach Paul Johnson said.

He also said senior kicker Eric Rolfs has taken the job for now from junior Geoff Blumenfeld, who is battling a hip injury. Rolfs kicked three field goals and four extra points at Vanderbilt.

"One man's misery is another man's opportunity," Johnson said. "We'll see if [Blumenfeld] comes back this week, but I'm not taking [Rolfs] out. Right now, he's the kicker. He's kicking the fool out of the ball."

NOTES: The Midshipmen played their first turnover-free game of the season at Vanderbilt. ... Junior fullback Kyle Eckel aggravated his sprained left shoulder on the game's first play, missed most of the first half, then came back to rush for 98 of his 115 yards in the second half, marking his fourth, 100-yard effort of the year.

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (4-2) vs. Rice (1-4)

Site: Rice Stadium, Houston

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

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

Line: Navy by 3

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