Navy plans to end giving

Mids have been generous to homeless Tulane but will give kindness a rest at kickoff

College football


Navy is hoping its generosity toward Tulane stops at kickoff time today in its annual homecoming game.

After suffering their worst defeat of the season last weekend, the Midshipmen need to rebound against a Tulane team turned into a vagabond by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and playing for the first time this season in a game not altered because of weather.

"My heart goes out to them for what they've gone through," said Navy coach Paul Johnson. "I'm sure it's been difficult. Anytime you have to move like that, it's a tough situation. We will try to help them out all we can, except for 60 minutes on Saturday."

The academy - through its athletic association and business partners - is essentially footing the entire bill for the Green Wave's trip to Annapolis, Tulane's eighth game in eight weeks, all in different locations. Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson said Navy went "above and beyond."

"You can look at it two ways. Sure, it's been very difficult," said Green Wave coach Chris Scelfo, whose squad has been at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La., since Sept. 12 after leaving New Orleans the day before the storm hit and traveling 856 miles, with stops in Jackson, Miss., and Dallas.

"But this is something we'll carry with us the rest of our lives. We'll never forget that your life can change in an instant."

At 1:30 p.m. today, the noble gesture will be temporarily shelved when the Midshipmen strive to resuscitate their bowl-game aspirations, needing two wins in their final four games to qualify. Representatives of three post-season games - the Liberty, Poinsettia and Houston - are scheduled to attend.

Johnson said he believes his team was out-muscled by Rutgers in a 31-21 loss last Saturday. He and his staff have sent Navy through a strenuous week of workouts in preparation for an opponent that has averaged 40 points a game in its last five matches and again has a dynamic passing attack.

"They are a very talented team with some very, very skilled guys," Johnson said. "It's the week to get it together because it's our next game."

The Midshipmen are favored by 12 1/2 points and their pattern so far has been to win games in which they are favored and lose those in which they are an underdog. To continue that trend, they will have to limit turnovers (three last week) - particularly early turnovers - control the ball as much as possible and keep the defense out of poor field position, a major problem at Rutgers.

Johnson has been particularly miffed by first-series interceptions in four games this season and vowed the errors that have led to them will be eliminated.

"I don't know about it never happening again, but I'm saying we can't keep doing what we've been doing," he said. "The one Saturday [against Rutgers] was ridiculous. We worked on the play all week and have a guy wide-open in the flat."

It is not likely that quarterback Lamar Owens will be benched for backup Brian Hampton, who has performed well in relief.

"I'm not pointing out Lamar," Johnson said. "He's not our only problem. We've got to protect the guy better and give him a chance to get set. The ones that have frustrated me to start the game are the ones we have just kind of lobbed down the middle of the field. That's not being very smart."

Navy is coming off a game in which it was restricted to season lows in rushing and total offense, partly because of turnovers that allowed Rutgers to have an 11-minute advantage in possession time.

Meanwhile, Tulane is happy to be playing a game with some sense of normalcy surrounding it as the team strives to break a four-game losing streak. This is a team that has traveled more than 5,200 miles since acquiring its "temporary permanent" home, mostly by bus, had its six home games moved to six different sites, seen two playing dates changed and one game time shifted.

Scelfo places no stock in the idea that Navy wants revenge for last year's pasting and made his team the homecoming foe.

"We played really well in the Superdome last year, and some good things happened early that we could capitalize on," he said. "Homecoming this week is probably just the way the calendar falls. You have to schedule it when you can."

Today's game

Tulane (2-5) @Navy (4-3)

Site -- Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

Time -- 1:30 p.m.

Radio -- 1090 AM, 1430 AM

Last week -- Tulane lost to Marshall, 27-26; Navy lost to Rutgers, 31-21.

Series record -- Tulane leads, 11-6-1

Line -- Navy by 12 1/2

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