Polanco picture of red, purple, but he says he'll heal for Rice

Navy notebook

Banged-up quarterback focuses on Mids rebound

College Football

October 20, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Because of the nature of Navy's option offense, the quarterback usually takes a pounding. Aaron Polanco received his Saturday in the 27-9 loss to Notre Dame.

As a result, Polanco is practicing this week while sporting a red jersey, which symbolizes that he is off limits to contact.

But he said yesterday he will definitely start in Saturday's game against Rice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

"I'm not missing anything," said Polanco. "I'm just banged up pretty bad from the game. I usually don't get any contact, anyway, but the coaches thought this was best. I'll be all right."

With the Irish defensive front overpowering Navy's offensive line all afternoon, Polanco was constantly under pressure. He was sacked more often (six) than he got off passes (five) and was handed 31 yards in losses.

His net rushing total was 19 yards, by far his lowest of the season. Fullback Kyle Eckel thus took over leadership of the ground-gaining statistics.

Coach Paul Johnson said: "I actually put [Polanco] in [the red jersey] myself. It didn't really matter the first day, but I may put him in one all week. He got dinged a little bit. He had a lot of people hanging on him on Saturday."

Polanco said the goal this week will be to avoid two consecutive defeats, something that never happened to the 2003 Midshipmen.

"Obviously, we want to win the rest of them, but especially this one. This is the first time we've faced that barrier." the quarterback said.

Polanco said the mental effort against the Irish was worse than the physical.

"We were about as far from mentally perfect as we could have been," he said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance."

Big day for Welsh

Former Navy quarterback and coach George Welsh will be honored twice at Saturday's game.

In pre-game ceremonies, Welsh will be cited for his forthcoming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame after rebuilding programs at the academy and the University of Virginia over a 28-year period.

At Navy, Welsh's teams won 55 games - the most by one coach in school history, over nine seasons - and played in three bowl games. In 19 years with the Cavaliers, he became the top winner in Atlantic Coast Conference history and was named national Coach of the Year three times. His teams set a league record with 13 consecutive seasons with at least seven wins.

His victory total of 189 ranked 24th in Division I-A history when he retired in 2000.

At halftime, Navy will salute the 50th anniversary of the 1954 "Team Named Desire" that finished 8-2, including a 21-0 Sugar Bowl victory over Southeastern Conference titlist Mississippi.

Welsh was the quarterback of that squad, which featured All-America end Ron Beagle, the winner of the Maxwell Trophy given the outstanding college player in the nation.

Et cetera

Navy clung to sixth in ESPN's mid-major poll despite the loss to Notre Dame. Unbeaten and ninth-ranked Utah is first, followed by a Louisville team that nearly shocked Miami (Fla.). ... One good thing emerged from the Irish defeat: Navy stayed healthy. "I don't think we lost anybody," said Johnson. "We have some guys banged and bruised but not any worse than any other game."

Next for Navy

Matchup: Rice (3-3) vs. Navy (5-1)

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

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

Line: Navy by 10

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