Young Mids accent pass in spring game

36 seniors from 10-2 team leave big holes

`We have to get bigger and stronger'

College Football

April 24, 2005|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There seemed to be a common theme that came out of the Navy spring football game yesterday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium: The Midshipmen have some work to do before the season begins Sept. 3 against Maryland.

Navy lost 36 seniors from last year's team that went 10-2, won the Emerald Bowl and gave the school its best season in 99 years. That's why the Midshipmen will need many underclassmen to step up and fill holes.

But there were plenty of struggles in yesterday's spring game, with the Blue team pulling out a 9-7 win over the White team.

"It was about like I thought," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "We have some areas of concern. We have to get bigger and stronger. We have to run the ball better."

The game featured the White team, made up of the first-team offense and second-team defense, against the Blue team, composed of the first-team defense and second-team offense. The Midshipmen passed - five quarterbacks combined to go 21-for-48 with 272 yards - much more than normal.

They ran for 229 yards and got several big plays on the ground. Navy relied heavily on its running game last year, gaining a total of 3,474 yards and scoring 36 touchdowns. But the Midshipmen lost running back Kyle Eckel (1,147 yards, 11 touchdowns) and quarterback Aaron Polanco (980 yards, 16 touchdowns), and replacing them will be a tall task.

Lamar Owens comes out of the spring as the starting quarterback. The junior played sparingly his first three years but did well this spring. He ran for 42 yards and threw for 126 yesterday, playing most of three quarters for the White team.

Owens started and completed seven of 14 passes. His big play was a 71-yard pass to Reggie Campbell in the first quarter that set up Matt Hall's 6-yard touchdown run with 11:13 left in the period. Owens threw a quick pass over the middle to Campbell, who made two nice moves that got him to the 6-yard line.

"I think we definitely are a young team," Owens said. "Everyone is real hungry to get better. This summer's going to be real key. The defense might have to carry us the first couple of games, [but] sometimes you've got to back one another."

Hall finished with 29 yards on 12 carries, but his work impressed Johnson. The junior fullback simply put his head down and bulled his way into the end zone on his touchdown.

The White team led most of the way until Blue quarterback Brian Hampton, fighting to be the backup, scrambled for a 52-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 9-7 lead. Hampton started by running left and then cutting back all the way across the field for the touchdown.

"The plan is to get to the end zone, no matter how you get there," Hampton said with a laugh of the run on fourth-and-16 run. "I'm hoping I showed a little consistency."

The Blue's defense made some big plays in the fourth quarter to hang on. Zach Robinson made an interception early in the period, and Hunter Reddick blocked Joey Bullen's 39-yard field-goal attempt with 2:16 left.

Tye Adams received the team's most improved player award. The sophomore is the first defensive end to win the honor since Rick Pagel in 1983. Adams spent most of his time on special teams last year and is listed as the backup right defensive end on the Navy depth chart.

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