Whittaker is making a quick impact

2nd-half kick return launched Mids' rout

5 TDs are plebe record

Navy notebook

College Football

October 26, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Karlos Whittaker was simply trying to provide some inspiration. He did that and more to start the second half against Rice.

When the speedy Navy newcomer ran through several tackles to reach the end zone after a 19-yard run Saturday, Whittaker broke a school record with his fifth touchdown as a freshman. He had been tied with quarterback Alton Grizzard, who scored four as a plebe in 1987.

"I felt like we needed a spark," said the 5-foot-11, 194-pound back. "We come to play, but sometimes don't have that spark to get going. I wanted to come out for the second half and start everything off."

Whittaker accomplished his goal by taking the second-half kickoff 52 yards to the Rice 48, then scoring three plays later. That started a snowball effect that resulted in Navy's first blowout win of the season, 41-9.

"We haven't had a kickoff returner like him since I've been here," said coach Paul Johnson. "He hits it up in there really hard, and if you do that, you don't always have to block everyone. We're excited about Karlos. He also made a great run on the toss when he scored his touchdown."

A slotback in a five-man rotation, he is the first Navy player to score touchdowns in five straight games since Brian Madden in 1999. He is averaging a touchdown every 3.4 carries and 27.2 yards on kickoff returns, equaling the third-best mark in school history in that category.

"I wasn't really aware of the [freshman] record," he said. Asked if he was pleased with his time on the field, Whittaker replied: "I could say that. Actually, I'm playing more than I expected."

Whittaker has carried 17 times from scrimmage for 169 yards, a 9.9 average.

A native of North Chicago, he is staunchly in the White Sox's corner in the World Series.

"I'm a big Sox fan," he said. "My [high school] coach put that in my head. The majority where I'm from love the Cubs, but I love the Sox."

Knights on a roll

Navy figures to encounter a handful Saturday at Rutgers, which has won five of its past six, is on the verge of bowl eligibility and has the incentive of being routed, 54-21, in Annapolis last season.

"I'm sure they've got us circled as the one to get bowl eligible against," Johnson said. "I don't see how it's to our advantage if they've got something to play for. And you don't get to carry over last year's points."

The Scarlet Knights have lost only to Illinois in overtime on the road and to now-nationally ranked West Virginia.

"They're very similar to Maryland and Stanford [two teams that edged Navy by three points]," Johnson said. "We need to win one of those games against the upper echelon. You don't get any points for playing tough."

Et cetera

The Midshipmen rushed for 301 yards last week and advanced to third in the national standings behind Minnesota and Memphis. Navy is running for 272.7 yards a game. ... LB David Mahoney has moved to fifth nationally with 1.83 tackles for loss per game, while LB Rob Caldwell ranks seventh in overall tackles at 12.7. Caldwell is one of only four players with at least 20 tackles in one game this season (21 vs. Air Force).

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Navy@Rutgers Saturday, 3:30 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Rutgers by 5 1/2

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