Fumbles rain on Navy parade

College football


The projected starting quarterback aggravated a shoulder injury and left the game after two plays from scrimmage, so the battle to become No. 2 became the spotlight last night at Navy's annual Blue-Gold game, the culmination of spring football practice.

It ended in a standoff between converted wide receiver Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarrod Bryant after the White team outlasted the Blue, 16-13, when No. 1 place-kicker Joey Bullen was wide on a tying field-goal attempt as time expired.

Kaheaku rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries for the Blue against an assortment of defensive personnel ranging from the top-of-the-line defense to third- and fourth-stringers, and Bryant totaled 82 rushing yards and a touchdown in a game played in a driving rain at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

"I don't know what you make of that," coach Paul Johnson said afterward. "The conditions were tough, a lot of guys were hurt and some of the big plays were made against down-the-line guys. Both teams made enough mistakes to lose 10 times."

With the ball hard to handle, the two sides combined for 12 fumbles, half of which were lost. Backup kicker Ethan Gouge missed two extra-point attempts, Matt Harmon was wide on a short field goal and running was far preferable to passing in the inclement weather.

After Brian Hampton was injured early, Kaheaku received all the quarterback work for the Blue team. That is a position preference he has stated often after playing sparingly at wide receiver and on the special teams last season as a plebe.

"It was a challenge going against our own team," he said. "The rain didn't help me, but getting as much work as I can get helps me a lot. I'd love to stay at quarterback, but I'll do whatever Coach says."

Bryant, a highly touted recruit from Alabama, and another upcoming sophomore, said he "was happy I didn't turn the ball over. We fumbled a couple of snaps but got them back. All of us [quarterback candidates] bring something different to the table, and I think the coaches feel pretty confident in all of us."

The fourth quarter brought one fumble after another before a bobble by Kaheaku was recovered by David Wright at the Blue 24 to set up the clinching touchdown.

Fullback Eric Kettani did the heavy duty on the ensuing short drives and plunged over from the 1 on the fifth play before Gouge missed from placement to give the Blue one final chance. It ended with the clock expiring and Bullen's shot sailing wide.

"Kettani ran hard and got a lot of yards against the linebackers," said Johnson. "But when you're moving and matching guys, it's hard to tell a lot. I tend to base my evaluations on all of spring practice, not just this game."

Hampton is expected to be OK and was rated as having "a decent spring" by the coach. "I would have liked to have seen him play a little bit more, but it's not anything that will affect him for the fall."

As usual, linebackers dominated the defensive picture, with Rob Caldwell amassing 16 tackles, including four for losses, for the White team and Clint Sovie leading the Blue with 13 stops, including one for a loss and a sack.

Notes -- Twenty-three players missed the spring game because of injuries. ... Offensive tackle Andrew McGinn, a plebe, won the Admiral Mack Award as the most improved player during the spring. The award is voted upon by the coaching staff.


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