Texas Tech wings past Navy, 38-14

Raiders' Symons passes for 497 yards, 4 TDs in Houston Bowl victory

Mids hang tight, then lose grip

In end, Big 12 team's size, speed overwhelm Navy, which still finishes at 8-5

College Football

December 31, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

HOUSTON - The relentless air assault of a team from the powerful Big 12 Conference wore down Navy's defenses in the Houston Bowl yesterday.

Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons passed for 497 yards and four touchdowns, leading the favored Red Raiders to a 38-14 victory before 51,068 fans at Reliant Stadium.

Navy completed its comeback season with an 8-5 record, the same as Texas Tech, which lost its final two regular-season games - to Texas and then-No. 1 Oklahoma.

Symons revealed after the game that he had been playing since Oct. 11 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but that it felt better in this game than at any time since he sustained the injury.

"I had a lot of people tell me that I shouldn't even play," said the Houston native. "But this was my only season and it wasn't even a decision for me. I definitely feel good that I was able to play and perform well."

Symons will undergo knee surgery on Jan. 6.

As is customary, the Midshipmen fought to the end, but they were outmanned by a bigger, stronger and faster opponent with a wider array of weapons.

Texas Tech never trailed after Navy squandered some scoring opportunities during a first half that was generally played at the slower tempo Navyprefers.

Each team had only one first-period possession, with the Red Raiders culminating their opening drive with a 22-yard field-goal attempt by Keith Toogood that sailed wide.

Navy then consumed the rest of the quarter with a typical clock-eating march that ended in disappointment.

On the first play of the second quarter, quarterback Craig Candeto fumbled on fourth-and-goal from six inches away, and Keyunta Dawson recovered and appeared headed to the other end zone when Eric Roberts made a saving tackle.

Both teams gambled on fourth-and-one plays deep in their territory.

"I don't think I got in," said Candeto. "I thought I was down [before the fumble], but the replay probably showed I wasn't."

Josh Smith thwarted Texas Tech's next thrust with an interception in the shadow of Navy's goal line, then the Midshipmen were halted near midfield when they faked a punt and didn't make the necessary 9 yards. Andy Michalowicz (Mount St. Joseph) was 1 yard short and Texas Tech regained the ball at Navy's 47.

"That play was actually going to be a pass," said Navy coach Paul Johnson, "but the player didn't shake free and he had to run it. That was something we worked on, but it was probably a bad decision on my part."

Symons and his teammates finally started clicking after that. They went 47 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead, with Symons hitting tight end Mickey Peters for the touchdown from the 4.

Eric Rolfs, who had made eight field-goal tries in a row, missed a 37-yard attempt after another long Navy possession and Tech responded by going 80 yards in 4:20 to score with four seconds left in the half.

With the slotbacks now being liberally used on pitch plays, the Midshipmen took the second-half kickoff and marched to a score, with Candeto getting his 32nd career touchdown, second on the Navy list. Rolfs' extra point made it 14-7.

But Tech's dizzying passing attack came right back with a 67-yard scoring drive capped by Taurean Henderson's 4-yard run.

"They went right back down and answered," said Johnson. "They felt they could move it from anywhere. When you fair-catch [a punt] on the 10 and then refuse a penalty that would mean another kick, that tells you how they felt."

After a 21-yard field goal by Toogood stretched Tech's lead to 24-7, Navy stayed in contention with the help of a 38-yard completion from Candeto to Amir Jenkins on fourth down that took the ball to the Red Raiders' 15. The completion marked the first time all day Navy had registered positive yards passing; its total had been minus-6 to that point.

Candeto scored again three plays later, cutting the margin to 10, before Tech came back with a drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Symons to Jarrett Hicks that basically put it out of reach.

At the end, Texas Tech got a little rowdy, drawing three personal-foul penalties, but its players stood dutifully to honor the traditional Navy alma mater afterward.

"We really didn't ever slow them down," said Johnson. "We tried about everything we could - rushing three, four and five players. We couldn't match up and play man with them."

"We knew they were big," added Navy linebacker Eddie Carthan. "But the offensive front was a lot better than we expected. We didn't expect them to move so fast."

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