Johnson at a loss after Navy's win

Mids' mistakes, lack of motivation leave coach shaking head


Coach Paul Johnson sat down in Navy's film room yesterday and watched what to him bordered on a horror show.

His players showed little inspiration. There was lackadaisical execution. Blown assignments. Mistakes, both mental and physical. Four turnovers. Kickoffs out of bounds. Bad snaps. Poor blocking. There was plenty of criticism to go around.

And this was after the Midshipmen had outlasted Kent State Saturday, 34-31, for their third straight victory, amassed a season-best 532 offensive yards and controlled the ball for 35 of the 60 minutes.

The tape merely confirmed what everyone in the Navy locker room knew immediately after the final whistle - that they had won without playing true winning football.

Johnson had said earlier in the week that by this point in the season, he usually has a handle on a team's identity. His assessment yesterday was that, "If we play like we did in this game, we're not very good."

Navy is 3-2 with one game settled by seven points and the other four by three. It hasn't been blown out, nor has it blown out any opponent, and every game has been in doubt until the end.

"There was a little difference last year," Johnson said. "We were 5-0 at this point. But we also played games like this - Northeastern [a win], Tulane [a blowout loss] and we didn't exactly set the world on fire against Rice [a one-point win on a missed extra point].

"But we had problems everywhere Saturday, not just in one or two positions."

The Midshipmen plunge into the midsection of their schedule with road games at winless Rice and improved Rutgers up next.

The Rice game was postponed from Sept. 24 until Saturday because of Hurricane Rita.

"I probably would have preferred playing it before," said Johnson. "But we have to play it now. People are going to say, `Well, Rice is winless' but they've played some really good teams [including No. 2 Texas].

"I'm sure they're going to be licking their chops if they watch the tape of our last game."

There was no jubilation, no raucous celebration after the Kent State game like the one that followed the last-second victory over Air Force. Players knew they had performed below par without suffering for it.

"We know we're not going to win easily or pretty all the time," said linebacker David Mahoney. "But we know we can play a lot better than we did."

Kent State mistakes on special teams enabled Navy to score 10 points and salt away the game, its fifth straight in the series without a loss. Johnson had no explanation for the team's lack of motivation.

"If I knew what the problem was, I wouldn't have let it be that way," he said. "I don't know if they thought they'd just throw their hat out there and that would be enough. Maybe they just thought it was going to be easy."

The coach said he is not contemplating lineup changes at this point.

"I don't know who we would change to," he said. "Somebody has to beat somebody out in practice."

Jason Tomlinson became the first Navy receiver since Ryan Read in 1998 to register consecutive 100-yard games, catching five passes for 115 yards against the Golden Flashes.

But he didn't escape Johnson's critique, either.

"I hold our best players to a higher standard," said the coach. "Jason caught the ball OK, but he can play much better than he did. It doesn't help a quarterback when a receiver quits on a route. And his blocking wasn't exactly up to par."


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