Navy looks ahead after 2 near-misses

Film eases frustration of loss to Stanford

Rice, week off are welcome

College Football

September 12, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The good news after two games is that the young Navy football team has learned it can compete to the finish against quality opponents from major Bowl Championship Series conferences and has avoided major injuries after some physical action.

The bad news is that the Midshipmen are 0-2 for the first time in coach Paul Johnson's tenure, their starting quarterback has been forced to leave both times in the second half because of cramping, and they have almost two weeks before another opportunity arises to break through the victory ice.

Frustration piled anew Saturday night after a wild shootout at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium when visiting Stanford held on for a 41-38 win in a game flush with excitement, big offensive plays and rapidly changing momentum.

After viewing the game film yesterday, Johnson was rather upbeat after realizing that the Cardinal has some pretty good personnel.

"I knew the first two were going to be tough," said the coach. "BCS teams were 21-1 this weekend against teams outside the BCS. Our kids played hard, and hopefully, when we go against more comparable teams, things will improve."

Next up is a trip to Rice on Sept. 24, and the Owls figure to be in the same position as the Midshipmen when they meet. They lost their opener Saturday at UCLA, 63-21, and next face No. 2 Texas.

"You never like a week off coming off a loss," said Johnson. "But it will give us a chance to regroup. We struggled to beat Rice last year [a 14-13 victory on a missed extra point], and we have to play them on the road. So, this isn't going to be an easy game, either."

Despite two interceptions, Navy quarterback Lamar Owens had a solid night, passing for 193 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinal. Overall, the Midshipmen threw for 13 more yards, an eye-catching statistic considering Stanford's West Coast offense, but Owens twice left the game with leg cramps and was not on the field when Navy was desperately trying to rally down the stretch.

"We've got to keep him out there somehow," Johnson said. "Otherwise, we have to come up with a plan if he can't finish."

That plan is to insert second-teamer Brian Hampton, who led the team on a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the waning moments to bring Navy to within three. Navy had one more possession with 1:37 remaining but was backed up to its 15, and Stanford didn't budge.

"Brian did some good things, and he's been put in some bad situations," Johnson said.

Defensively, the Midshipmen couldn't halt Stanford in the second half, when the Cardinal scored on four of its first five offensive series and never relinquished the lead.

"They really didn't do anything we didn't expect," said Navy linebacker Rob Caldwell. "But we didn't execute and missed assignments. You can't do that against teams like Stanford and Maryland."

Johnson acknowledged "it's hard to tell with the competition we've played" just where his fourth Navy team stands. "But I think we're going to get better."

NOTE: Plebe Karlos Whittaker, who came to the forefront with seven carries for 110 yards and a touchdown, is actually the second Navy player to exceed 100 in his first season. Alton Grizzard ran for more than 200 against Penn in 1987.

"He's going to be a really good player," Johnson said. "He's hard to tackle and has decent speed. He's an exciting guy."

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