It's crystal clear: Navy still laps ahead of Army

Mids' latest victory underlines their huge advantage in speed

College Football

December 05, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

In the final analysis, it is obvious Army is still playing catch-up in the quest for the Commander in Chief's Trophy, which has settled into a home in Annapolis.

Navy, the premier service academy team the past three years, was playing at the speed of a fighter jet most of Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. In comparison, the Black Knights were plodding their way down the field a few yards at a time with all the velocity of a churning tank.

This was one race in which the hare clearly outsped the tortoise, not stopping until the game was unequivocally decided.

"I think one of the things that was apparent to me was that Navy had more speed than we did," Army coach Bobby Ross said in his damage assessment after a 42-23 defeat. "They had more quickness and athleticism and I think we have to continue to try to upgrade that."

With an offensive line that dominated Army's front, the Midshipmen rolled up 490 yards rushing and scored touchdowns on six straight possessions from the start of the second quarter to the first play of the fourth, when fullback Adam Ballard chugged his way to a 67-yard score.

The superior speed was apparent on the first scoring drive, when scatback Reggie Campbell broke into the clear and raced 54 yards untouched to the end zone. No one was gaining on him.

Simply put, Army couldn't handle the triple-option steered deftly by senior quarterback Lamar Owens, who made the proper reads and decisions virtually the entire game.

Even coach Paul Johnson, who normally finds plenty to criticize, had praise for everybody from Owens - "He did a good job of getting everybody involved" - to Ballard, normally a favorite target of his dissatisfaction, to an offensive line that has helped the Midshipmen to the top of the national rushing chart.

"Oh, we missed some tackles and busted a coverage on their big touchdown [a 30-yard pass from Zac Dahman that put Army in front for the final time at 10-7]," said Johnson. "But, all in all, the kids played hard and executed pretty well."

Buoyed by the resounding success the attack was having, Navy's defense shut down the Black Knights (three straight three-and-punt series) until the game was well in hand at 35-10. Two late Army touchdowns only served to slightly salve the wound.

No doubt Ross has made some headway toward improving Army's program, which finished 2005 with four wins in its final five games.

"I would have to say that we had success from where we came from," said Ross. "I was scared to death that this season was going to be a major rebuilding job because we had to completely rebuild our offensive line. We had a lot of injuries that hurt us a little bit. I still feel we made progress and that there are things to build on."

He will have to replace both quarterback Dahman, who holds virtually every school passing record, and star running back Carlton Jones, who sealed his second consecutive 1,000-yard season with 80 against the Midshipmen.

Meanwhile, Navy's players will receive a few well-deserved days off before beginning preparations for the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 22. Johnson said he will begin watching film of the opponent, Colorado State, tomorrow or Wednesday while his staff is on the recruiting trail.

"I'm awfully proud of our football team," was his first reaction after Navy's fourth straight victory over its arch-rival.

"They played with some enthusiasm and some fire. We felt all week we had beaten Army three times in a row, but you wouldn't have known it by listening to the media and everyone. We kind of wondered if we were good enough. I think that played to our advantage a little."

Johnson was still bothered by some sharp pain that sent him to the hospital earlier in the week (test results were negative), but said, "The way we were going made it a little easier."

"We wanted to make the statement that we were on a different level," said Owens. They did - with an exclamation point.

Note -- Owens ran for 99 yards Saturday. He would have had 101, but he lost 2 yards on a carry.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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