Navy not content with second best

Says Johnson, `We had so many opportunities'

College Football

September 05, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

At the Naval Academy, moral victories are not an option.

The players landed hard after neighboring Maryland rallied for an exciting 23-20 victory Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium, believing they had allowed a program-defining win to slip from their grasp.

For instance, fullback Matt Hall was not in the mood to discuss the creditable showing he had made in his first start as the replacement for graduated Kyle Eckel, the battering ram of last year's 10-2 team.

Hall ran 17 times for 68 yards and scored touchdowns from the 3 and the 6, but that was of little consequence to him.

"You never feel good when you lose, no matter what you play like," Hall said. "I feel like I didn't contribute enough. Anytime you're up most of the game, you feel like you should have won. That's all there is to it."

Coach Paul Johnson wants his players to despise the sting of defeat.

"If you didn't, it wouldn't mean much," Johnson said yesterday. "It's even harder when you get beat in a difficult way like we did. We had so many opportunities and missed them."

Navy certainly offered some encouraging signs. The triple-option offense often clicked under new quarterback Lamar Owens; the defense had the Terrapins off balance with its blitzes for most of the first half; the Midshipmen didn't commit a turnover until a last-minute, desperation pass was intercepted; and senior Eric Shuey punted extremely well and ran for 7 yards and a first down on a fake attempt.

There were a lot of "ifs" surrounding the outcome.

If Navy had scored a touchdown on a second-period drive to make it 21-3 instead of stalling on a delay-of-game penalty and an illegal forward pass by Owens to turn the ball over inside the Maryland 20. "Had we converted there, we might have put the dagger in them," Johnson said.

If the defense had not allowed Lance Ball to squirm down the sidelines with a swing pass for 20 yards on a fourth-and-eight in the fourth quarter, setting up the game-winning pass on the next play.

"There are a zillion plays you can point to," Johnson said. "No question some of the problems had to do with youth. Guys who hadn't played were jumping and we had a defensive holding penalty for no reason."

So, it's back to the drawing board for the Midshipmen, who will get no relief Saturday.

"This crew we're playing this week [Stanford] might be even better," Johnson said. "We'll just try to move on."

NOTE: Despite the resounding success of the first Maryland-Navy game in 40 years Saturday night, academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said no current plans are afoot to resume the series.

"I thought we had a nice evening," Gladchuk said yesterday. "It was a great setting, a collegiate environment and everybody was upbeat. We had as spirited a matchup on the field as you could want. But I'm not ready to even comment on [resumption]. We have to think about the big picture. It's something we're interested in, but we haven't come to any conclusions."

The Navy family was particularly appreciative of Maryland's actions after the game when the Terps players stood respectfully to the Navy alma mater - a la Army. Navy returned the courtesy.

"We do that on a normal basis," Gladchuk said. "It was nice to see Maryland stick out there with our guys. It was very respectful that they stayed on the field."

Next for Navy

Matchup: Stanford (0-0) at Navy (0-1)

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

Radio: 1090 AM (will break away for Orioles-Mariners coverage), 1430 AM, 97.9 FM

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