Navy will try to keep time on its side tonight

By controlling ball, clock, defense can stay fresh for quick-striking Stanford

September 10, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

To be effective, the Navy football team's offensive unit must extract the most production it can from every possession.

Control of both the ball and the clock are essential elements in the overall scheme and they will be especially important this evening when the Midshipmen launch the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium portion of their schedule against Stanford, an opponent they haven't played in 40 years.

With the quick-strike capability of the pass-dominated West Coast offense, the Cardinal is capable of scoring in a hurry. Navy must be particularly resourceful on attack to keep its defense fresh.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. as the Midshipmen seek to stretch a home winning streak to nine.

"We've got to get them to understand the urgency of each possession the way we play," said Navy coach Paul Johnson. "I would have liked to have had more time of possession [in the opener vs. Maryland when it was virtually even]. When you are shortening the game, you've got to maximize what you do when you have the ball."

Two Navy series in the second half last week fizzled when quarterback Lamar Owens was temporarily knocked out of the game with a cramped hand. After neither resulted in points or significant time off the clock, Maryland scored to take the lead for the first time all night.

As soon as Owens returned, Navy drove 80 yards to a touchdown to regain the advantage.

"I hope he can stay out there for the whole game," said Johnson of Owens, who had a solid opener offset by several game management errors borne of inexperience. "That's going to be important. And the supporting cast has to help."

Stanford will be making its 2005 debut with a new coach (Walt Harris), 50 returning lettermen, 10 offensive starters back and a new defensive coordinator (Tom Hayes) who has been out of coaching since 2001.

Like Maryland, the Cardinal is considerably bigger and endowed with superior talent compared with Navy. Its primary receivers, Evan Moore (6 feet 7, 235 pounds), Mark Bradford (6-2, 200) and tight end Matt Traverso (6-4, 250) will dwarf the Navy defensive backs.

"This is a very good football team in a very tough conference [Pacific-10]," Johnson said. "It's only the conference that the national champion [Southern California] has been in two years in a row. The national champion beat them by three last year, so they have a pretty good team."

One Midshipman eager for a shot at Stanford is Jason Tomlinson, the team's leading receiver.

He was courted out of Texas by the previous Cardinal regime with high school teammate Landon Johnson, a Stanford linebacker. Tomlinson, one of Navy's most athletic players, wanted badly to go to Palo Alto with Johnson, but was never offered a scholarship.

"I'd be lying if I said I haven't been waiting for this game," Tomlinson said. "They kept telling me there were holdups with the admissions process."

Tomlinson and his mates will be going against a 3-4 defense led by Hayes, who has been in the restaurant business since being let go as Kansas' interim head coach.

"We have no clue how they're going to line up," said Johnson of the Stanford defense. "We just try to practice against all the different ways they could."

On the other side, the Midshipmen figure to have a busy day trying to contain the Cardinal's pass-happy attack led by quarterback Trent Edwards. Navy has a faculty for bending to opposing passing, but not breaking often.

"I don't think there's any question that they are probably better offensively than the last team we played," Johnson said. "I look at it as an opportunity. Our guys can make a statement by winning this game. I think we could gain a lot of credibility if we can come back and beat Stanford."

Tonight's game

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

Time: 6

Radio: 1090 AM (will break away for Orioles game), 1430 AM, 97.9 FM

Line: Stanford by 3

Series: Navy leads 1-0-1

Last week: Stanford was idle; Navy lost to Maryland, 23-20.

Outlook: In its first home game against a Pac-10 member, Navy seeks to rebound from a tough defeat to neighboring Maryland, a game lost with 1:01 to play. With 50 lettermen returning, including 10 offensive starters, the Cardinal - making its debut under coach Walt Harris - represents another major challenge to the Midshipmen. They haven't met since 1965, when they played to a 7-7 standoff. Stanford is another team with a huge size advantage and some top-level talent. The defense is headed by LB Jon Alston, NT Babatunde Oshinowo, DT Julian Jenkins and CB T.J. Rushing, all preseason All-Pac 10 choices. Offensively, senior Trent Edwards, who has started 13 games over two years, is back at QB, nine returning linemen return and sophomore Anthony Kimble opens at RB after conversion from WR. Navy QB Lamar Owens had a strong first game as starter with 122 yards rushing and 97 passing. In a quest for their ninth straight home victory, the Midshipmen will not have much margin for the occasional errors that hurt them a week ago.

- Kent Baker

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