Indiana's Caldwell looking forward to fighting Irish

Nelson making big impact at A back

Quinn to start

Navy notebook

College Football

October 13, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Navy coach Paul Johnson has had nearly two weeks to drive home the point that Notre Dame has superior talent to his own - as usual.

"We don't have anybody on our team that Notre Dame recruited. I don't know if we have anybody on our team that Notre Dame sent a letter to," Johnson said, repeating a point he has emphasized since the Midshipmen moved to 5-0 with their dramatic victory at Air Force.

But at least one player received token interest from the Irish.

"I took an unofficial visit there in my junior year [in high school]," said Navy second-team linebacker Rob Caldwell. "I think they gave me a look in their camp because they wanted to establish good will with the schools nearby. But it never got any farther. I guess I was too small and too slow."

Caldwell was a four-year letter-winner in football at Andrean High School in Gary, Ind., a short drive from South Bend.

"Where I'm from, Notre Dame is very big. Watching Rudy [the movie], cheering them on. I would go to their games," said Caldwell. "I know a couple guys on the team and I still watch them when I get a chance."

Nevertheless, the sophomore would relish the opportunity to be on the Navy team that halts the 40-game winning streak Notre Dame owns against the Midshipmen.

"My thing was to play for them or play against them and beat them," said Caldwell. "It would be great to end that streak. That's all everybody keeps talking about."

Nelson breaks through

Because of Navy's depth at slot back - or A back, as the position is known in Johnson's offense - it might be the toughest spot on the team for a player to gain playing time. But Marco Nelson has managed to do just that.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior from Scottsdale, Ariz., has contributed a raft of productive plays in the past three games, the latest a 66-yard reception from quarterback Aaron Polanco that set up the team's final touchdown against Air Force.

"All the A backs can make plays," Nelson said. "It just means we rotate more and stay fresher. Eric [Roberts] and Frank [Divis] are the best. I try to learn from them."

Nelson first came into prominence with a good performance in the spring game, but then pulled a hamstring and missed part of preseason camp. When he returned to full stride, Roberts, Divis, Trey Hines and freshman Reggie Campbell were also vying for time.

"We have some guys who can play there," said Johnson. "We basically only play four or five [at two spots], but we need to get some of the younger guys in the game more.

"[Nelson] has made some really good plays in the passing game, but he needs to be more consistent going in the right direction and knowing his assignments."

Nelson scored his first career touchdown against Vanderbilt on a 45-yard pass from Polanco.

Quinn recovering

Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn is expected to start despite suffering a concussion in Saturday's victory over Stanford. Coach Tyrone Willingham said Quinn will be monitored by the training staff through practice this week but also said he thought Quinn would be fine.

Quinn left the Stanford game with 4:10 remaining after scoring on a 2-yard run. He has passed for 1,529 yards and nine touchdowns with five interceptions this season.

Et cetera

After a 16-day hiatus since playing on a Thursday night, Navy is expected to be injury-free for Saturday. ... D.J. Fitzpatrick, the hero of Notre Dame's thrilling 27-24 victory last season with a 40-yard field goal as time expired, is now handling all the team's kicking duties. ... This is the first time since 1978 and third in 44 years that Navy will enter the Notre Dame game undefeated.

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (5-0) vs. Notre Dame (4-2)

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: Saturday, noon

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

Line: Notre Dame by 6 1/2

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