7-win Midshipmen aren't feeling so assured, even vs. 0-12 Army

Johnson knows Knights motivated on many fronts

Navy notebook

College Football

December 03, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The winning season is secure at 7-4. The invitation to a bowl game has been received and accepted. The coach's contract has been extended. Army is on a 14-game losing streak.

So why is Navy's Paul Johnson fretting with the big game only a few days hence?

"They scare the fool out of me," Johnson said of the Black Knights after Navy's practice yesterday. "Records don't have nothing to do with this game. Anybody who's ever been in one knows that. They're going to give us the best they've got, and I hope we can do the same."

Army (0-12) has plenty of motivation: to break the slide, to prevent becoming the first team in NCAA history to go 0-13 in one season and, of course, atonement for the 58-12 pasting it received from the Midshipmen last December.

"They're going to come out with everything they have," said Navy starting cornerback Vaughn Kelley. "I know that every single one of them do care because every one of us does. And Coach always tells us that revenge is a great motivator for those who care."

Weather undecided

Saturday's early weather forecast for Philadelphia is predicting precipitation, perhaps cold rain, perhaps snow, perhaps a mixture.

Such conditions would seem to favor Navy's punishing ground game over Army's furious air assault, especially on Lincoln Financial Field's natural grass.

That is the customary logic, but Johnson's triple-option attack depends on a lot of ball-handling and cutting by runners, so Navy's preference would be for a dry surface as well.

"The weather affects everything," Johnson said. "I don't imagine anybody being too happy if it's wet. If that's what it is, that's what we'll play on. But I don't trust tomorrow's forecast, much less one for four days from now."

In inclement weather, turnovers usually decide.

"[The Black Knights] turned it over seven times against Air Force, and they were still in the game," Johnson said. "I doubt if we'd be in it if we had that many turnovers."

Navy overcame two turnovers in its 28-25 upset of the Falcons on Oct. 4.

Et cetera

The Midshipmen have won the Commander in Chief's Trophy the fewest times of the three major academies and are seeking their first since 1981. The trophy is presented annually to the winner of the football competition among the academies. Air Force has won it 16 times to Army's six and Navy's five. ... Maryland Hall of Famer and former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason will be the color commentator on the CBS telecast of the game, with Ian Eagle doing play-by-play. ... Navy has a streak of nine straight touchdowns on possessions inside the red zone (opponents' 20-yard line or closer). ... Navy has dressed as many as 18 plebes for a game this season and could suit up as many Saturday. "Hopefully, they're scared to death," Johnson said. "Sometimes, a little fear is good for you."

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (7-4) vs. Army (0-12)

Site: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line: Navy by 23

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