With spirits up, Mids are wary of downturn

Visit by 1-4 Kent State, winless in 4 tries vs. Navy, to follow emotional victory over Air Force

Navy Notebook


Navy is striving to avoid the possibility of getting lax this week after a last-second victory over service academy rival Air Force that was one of the most emotionally satisfying, and draining, in the football program's long history.

A 1-4 Kent State team that has defeated only winless Southeast Missouri State comes to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday bent on beating the Midshipmen for the first time, and the Navy coaching staff is issuing constant reminders that this is no time for a letdown.

"We can't look at anybody like that. We're not that kind of football team," said coach Paul Johnson. "We have to be ready for everyone. Everybody around here is patting the players on the back, but they've got to put that behind them."

"You don't want to take any game too lightly," added receiver Jason Tomlinson. "We're back up at 2-2 and have a chance to make our goals. So, you have to get yourself ready again."

This marks a particular opportunity to get cozy. In four meetings, Navy has outscored Kent State, 179-84, an average of 45-21. In Annapolis, the Midshipmen have prevailed by an average of 24 points.

Post-game good times

After the biggest kick of his life, a 46-yard field goal in a driving rain to beat Air Force with the clock expiring, sophomore Joey Bullen celebrated with a family reunion.

"I spent time with my parents Sunday," Bullen said. "They came up from South Carolina for the game."

Support came pouring forth after his heroics in the form of being presented with newspaper clippings, pats on the back and "a whole lot of excitement on the yard, especially among the Midshipmen, who got a little extra time off the yard when we won. Even the plebes."

All-new secondary

The entire starting secondary from last season is new now that cornerback Jeremy McGown has been sidelined by a broken arm. McGown is expected to miss four weeks after being injured in the Duke game Oct. 1.

"Anytime you lose a player of that stature, it's going to hurt," Johnson said.

Also gone are co-captain Josh Smith and Emerald Bowl outstanding defensive player Vaughn Kelley (graduated) and Hunter Reddick (transferred to Maryland and sitting out as a redshirt).

Of the revamped foursome, only free safety DuJuan Price and cornerback Keenan Little had extensive experience. Cornerback Rashawn King, a plebe, and rover Dell Robinson, a sophomore, made their first starts against Air Force.

"We had a couple of young guys step up. They stayed in there and fought," said Johnson of the newcomers.

Et cetera

Linebacker Rob Caldwell took over the national lead in tackles after participating in 21 against Air Force. He is averaging 15.5 stops, ahead of runner-up Jimmy Cottrell of New Mexico State (14.7). Kent State linebacker Jon Sessler is fifth at 13.8.

Michael Drake Jr., son of a longtime assistant coach at both Navy and Kent State, will participate in the coin toss Saturday. Mike Drake died of cancer Aug. 12 at age 48.

The Golden Flashes have 10 Maryland players on their roster, but none is from the Baltimore area. They are primarily graduates of suburban Washington schools.

Navy has already suffered more interceptions than last season (five to four).

kent baker@baltsun.com

Kent State@Navy Saturday, 1:30 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 13

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