Candeto, Navy hope to end `bittersweet' era with a win

With all goals met, Mids' latest is to top Texas Tech

Houston Bowl notebook

December 29, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

HOUSTON - The end of an era is a day away and Navy quarterback Craig Candeto is feeling mixed emotions.

"It's been bittersweet," he said of his four years with the academy football team. "It was a long, hard road that has had a rewarding ending."

Candeto endured three of the worst years in the program's 122-year history, a 3-30 stretch that can never be totally forgotten. Now, in coach Paul Johnson's second season, the Midshipmen (8-4) have fulfilled all their goals, including a winning record, the Commander In Chief's Trophy (awarded to the team with the best record in games among the three service academies), and a bowl-game invitation.

The goal changed after Navy routed archrival Army on Dec. 6. Now to win tomorrow's Houston Bowl against Texas Tech (7-5) is the new aim.

"We've taken a lot of strides this year, and to win the bowl game would be the icing," said Candeto, who has both rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards. He and Missouri's quarterback, Brad Smith, are the only two players to accomplish that this season. "It would help us in recruiting and take the program another step forward."

Candeto will be at his familiar station directing the triple option offense, which has made Navy the top rushing team in the country at 326.1 yards per game.

"For a lot of us, this is our last out," he said. "We're going to try not to remember the other years before this one."

All hands on deck

The Midshipmen concluded serious practice for the game yesterday at Rice University and are at full strength. Nobody who played the past few weeks is injured, and safety Josh Smith has recovered from the appendectomy that kept him out of the Army game.

Johnson reiterated that he doesn't want to see a four-hour marathon as Texas Tech has been known to play. The Red Raiders' 51-49 loss to Oklahoma State took four hours and 20 minutes.

"I'll guarantee that there are not going to be as many possessions as there are when they play another team that throws the ball," said Johnson. "I don't think it's going to be a four-hour game."

Et cetera

ESPN has added 30 minutes to its programming for this bowl to include the pre-game flyover and the march-on by the Brigade of Midshipmen. The telecast will begin at 4 p.m. eastern time. ... Navy's other trip to Houston this season resulted in a 38-6 romp over Rice in which the defense turned in its finest effort of the year, limiting the Owls to two field goals. ... Texas Tech is the only member of the Big 12 Conference that has registered a winning record for eight straight seasons.

Houston Bowl

Matchup:Navy (8-4) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Site:Reliant Stadium, Houston

When:Tomorrow, 4:30 p.m.

TV/Radio:ESPN/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line:Texas Tech by 12 1/2

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