Navy runs at full throttle

Fullback Hall powers Mids to 418 rushing yards against Tulane

Notre Dame up next


Everything fell conveniently into place for Navy on Saturday, just in time to gather momentum for its biggest challenge of the season. The Midshipmen had the incentive of a 32-point loss last season to the opponent they were playing and an ugly defeat, their worst of this season, the previous weekend at Rutgers. They had been pushed through a strenuous week of practice to be showcased before a homecoming crowd and several bowl scouts.

And Tulane was visiting Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with a multitude of difficulties that stemmed from being uprooted by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. The entire existence of the Green Wave had been disjointed, and it entered the game with a four-game losing streak.

The result was almost predictable. Navy did practically nothing wrong all day, exploited Tulane's rash of errors and rolled to its easiest victory of 2005.

"We played with really good effort, I think the best of the season," Navy coach Paul Johnson said yesterday after watching the film of the 49-21 rout that was never in doubt after the Midshipmen scored the first five touchdowns. They could have had another but for a Trey Hines fumble that Tulane recovered for a touchback.

"And they had the worst imaginable start anyone could have," Johnson added.

Without throwing a pass, Navy drove 40, 25, 42 and 50 yards to the end zone on its first four possessions, three times capitalizing on Green Wave turnovers. Tye Adams recovered a fumbled kickoff to set up one march, and Greg Thrasher and David Mahoney followed with interceptions of Lester Ricard, the quarterback who had burned the Midshipmen for 18 completions in 19 attempts and four touchdowns last season.

The game was over before it was one quarter over.

"Last year all of us were a little shocked that Tulane beat us so badly," linebacker Tyler Tidwell said. "That gave us some incentive - to make up for that. All Coach Johnson had to talk about was that game and last week's game with Rutgers."

The idea was to play more physically, and in that vein, Johnson's goal was to establish the effectiveness of the fullback, Matt Hall.

After the first 11 minutes, 18 seconds, Hall had rushed for 69 yards and Navy was rolling with a four-touchdown lead. By halftime, Hall had more than 100 yards.

"We just wanted to pound the fullback," Johnson said. "Hall ran extremely hard and the offensive line came off the ball pretty good. That's the way we need to play when we can. We're going to play some teams we can't do that against, probably next week."

Yes, it's time again to see if Navy can end the Notre Dame stranglehold, which has now reached 41 consecutive defeats, an NCAA record. While studying the film of the Irish yesterday, Johnson was not sounding optimistic about this being the year the streak would end.

"We haven't seen anybody like this since I've been here," the Navy coach said. "They are going to make you show up because I know our athletic department has already received the [guarantee] check. We'll just play the best we can and see what happens."

Navy has had some heartbreaking defeats to the Irish in recent years, but 2004 wasn't one of them. Notre Dame took Johnson's up-and-coming program very seriously and dominated the Midshipmen, 27-9, at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

For Navy to break the streak, everything would have to fall into place and then some.

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