Mids ease Blumenfeld's load, audition punters

Navy notebook

September 15, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

After a collection of bloopers on special teams in Saturday's victory over Northeastern, Navy coach Paul Johnson declared: "We've probably got the worst kicking game in the country."

That statement was a slight exaggeration, but Johnson has acted to rectify at least one facet of the problem. When the Midshipmen visit Tulsa on Saturday, they will have a new punter.

Senior Geoff Blumenfeld, who has been trying to shoulder all the kicking duties, is not punting in practice. Junior Eric Shuey and sophomore Ethan Gouge are auditioning to replace him.

"We'll let them both kick this week and see what happens," Johnson said. "Geoff is not going to punt."

Neither Shuey nor Gouge has played in a varsity game. Shuey was the reserve place-kicker for the sprint team last fall. Both will dress on the traveling squad as the coaches attempt to ease some of the pressure on Blumenfeld.

Blumenfeld, who said earlier that punting "does not come natural to me," has had his difficulties while trying to punt rugby style (on the run).

In the opener, he disdained a kick and took off attempting to make a first down, but was tackled by Duke far short of the marker, giving the Blue Devils the ball inside the Navy 40. That was blamed on an absence of blocking on the back side by Blumenfeld's teammates.

In the second game, his punts tended to be low line drives, susceptible to big returns. Overall, he has averaged 36.8 yards (31.8 net) on the punts he has gotten off.

Additionally, Blumenfeld has missed both his field-goal attempts, the latest a 26-yard chip shot, and an extra point.

Interestingly, Navy will be facing a punter, Chris Kindred of Tulsa, who could have been playing in Annapolis. He attended the Naval Academy Prep School, but "did not make it academically," Johnson said.

In his biography in the Tulsa media guide, Kindred lists Newport, R.I. (site of the Naval Academy Prep School) as "the most memorable place" he has visited.

On Saturday, a would-be Navy blocker, Byron McCoy, who was retreating to help return man Jason Tomlinson, was plunked blindly in the helmet by a Northeastern punt, leading to a fumble recovery by the Huskies.

"That's a freak play," Johnson said. "You could play for years and not get hit in the head with a punt."

The scoop on Tulsa

Tulsa, which will be playing its home opener, should provide the sternest test Navy has encountered so far.

The Golden Hurricane is 0-2, but its losses have been at Kansas (21-3) and Oklahoma State (38-21), a team that nearly made the Top 25 this week.

"They're very athletic, especially on defense," Johnson said. "They've struggled offensively, but that's because of who they've been playing."

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (2-0) vs. Tulsa (0-2)

Site: Skelly Stadium, Tulsa, Okla.

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

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

Line: Tulsa by 1

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