Mids unable to make passing grade

Ground game does its job, but air attempts feeble

Houston Bowl notebook

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

HOUSTON - The nation's top rushing offense virtually held up its end yesterday in the Houston Bowl, but Navy's 38-14 defeat by Texas Tech pointed up the need to develop greater passing capability if the team is to climb another notch on college football's ladder.

With a bowl-record 289 net yards on the ground, the Midshipmen approached their season average of 326.1. The futility in the air was another matter.

Although they uncharacteristically threw on first down three times and even tried to surprise Texas Tech with a bomb on occasion, almost all of the air damage belonged to Texas Tech. Navy completed only three of 13 passes for 40 yards, most of them coming on one throw to Amir Jenkins after the game had been decided.

"We struggled mightily to try to throw," said coach Paul Johnson. "We had some guys open, but either we had a protection problem or didn't throw it well."

Aaron Polanco, the heir apparent to Craig Candeto at quarterback, has a stronger arm, but not the command of the option offense, so it will be interesting to see what happens next season.

Eckel: `We missed out'

Navy fullback Kyle Eckel, who rushed for 71 yards on 14 carries, said missed chances were the key

"It was like Rutgers and TCU [both losses] all over again," Eckel said. "We missed out on some points and you can't do that against a team like this."

Candeto and Eckel finished well over the 1,000-yard mark for rushing this season, Candeto with 1,112 and Eckel with 1,249. It was the first time in Navy history two of its players have accomplished that in the same year.

Symons: Tech `motivated'

Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons said the Red Raiders felt disrespected coming into the game, and therefore were inspired.

"We were highly motivated," he said. "We felt we weren't getting enough credit and respect and we came out to prove ourselves as an offense. We wanted to make a statement. We feel good about the way we played."

Symons finished as one of only two players in NCAA history to throw 50 or more touchdown passes (52) in a season. David Klingler set the record with 54 in 1990 for Houston.

Et cetera

Texas Tech set a Houston Bowl record with 561 yards of total offense. ... Navy was shut out in the first half for the first time in 14 games. ... Texas Tech coach Mike Leach lauded his defense for "playing as well as it did against an offense that is really tough to play."

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