Mids hobbled, humbled

Navy QB Hampton hurt early in rout by No. 24 Rutgers

Rutgers 34 Navy 0

October 15, 2006|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun reporter

Navy had a chance to make its strongest statement of the season yesterday against visiting No. 24 Rutgers. Instead, starting with the early loss of senior quarterback Brian Hampton to a dislocated left knee, the Midshipmen took a sour, three-hour ride that ruined their homecoming.

Before a record crowd of 36,918 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Navy cracked early on offense, then fell apart in every phase of the game as Rutgers administered a 34-0 beating.

It was a nightmare in every way for the Mids, who fell to 5-2. They probably have lost Hampton for the rest of the season. They were shut out for the first time in nearly four years, and they suffered their worst homecoming loss since dropping a 49-15 decision to Boston College in 1968.

Navy's triple-option offense, left in the overmatched hands of sophomore quarterbacks Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant, ran into a red-and-white stone wall in the form of the Scarlet Knights, who entered the game ranked third nationally in defense.

Rutgers forced 11 punts and held the Mids to 113 rushing yards and 161 yards of total offense - both their lowest totals since 2002. Navy never got deeper than the Rutgers 40-yard line. Its longest gain was a 20-yard run by senior linebacker Rob Caldwell on a fake punt early in the fourth quarter.

"I don't think we did anything right. It was a complete meltdown," junior fullback Adam Ballard said, after being held to a season-low 23 yards rushing. "We couldn't block anybody, we couldn't catch balls, we couldn't do anything."

The defense held up for a while, but poor field position and the combination of Rutgers sophomore running back Ray Rice and sophomore quarterback Mike Teel did in the Mids. The Scarlet Knights blocked two punts deep in Navy territory on the Mids' first two second-half possessions, when Rutgers - off to its best start in 40 years at 6-0 - scored 10 points to take a 20-0 lead.

And it all began with an emotional loss with 5:41 left in the first quarter that stunned the crowd into silence and rocked the home team on the sideline. During Navy's second possession in what was then a scoreless contest, Hampton was tackled by Rutgers senior tackle Ramel Meekins after a 5-yard gain to the Navy 33. Then, Hampton rolled over while clutching his knee.

Nearly 10 minutes later, the team's leading rusher was taken off the field on a cart. Hampton will be re-evaluated tomorrow.

"It was like the air went out of everybody when that happened," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "I feel bad for Brian. He was really starting to play [well]. There were a lot of guys that were in tears.

"We probably played as poorly as I can remember. But I don't think you can lay it on [losing Hampton]. It was a pretty good butt kicking. [Rutgers] physically beat us. I was surprised with the ease that they did that. I don't think we ever mounted what I would call a real drive in the game. [We have] two young quarterbacks. They're going to get better, but they didn't have a chance."

Meekins and the rest of Rutgers' eight-man front saw to that. Meekins finished with a game-high 12 tackles, including two of the Scarlet Knights' nine sacks. He also forced three fumbles. Meekins was just one of the players who spent the day in Navy's backfield and stuffed the option between the tackles and on the edges.

Navy had the ball in Rutgers territory only twice. One of those was by virtue of a first-quarter drive that started at the Scarlet Knights' 46 after a fumble forced by Irv Spencer that was recovered by Ketric Buffin. That drive stalled at the 41.

"The [defense] played very, very well with great discipline and focus," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said.

"I did see a whole bunch of white and red out there," Kaheaku-Enhada said. . "Rutgers played awesome today. They played hard, they came off the ball. You can't ask for more of a challenge than that."

To its credit, Navy's defense hung tough enough to limit Rice to 93 yards, 68 below the average of the nation's second-leading rusher. It hung tough enough to hold Rutgers to a 10-0 halftime advantage.

But the back-to-back blocked punts and Teel - he set career highs with 215 yards and three touchdown passes and gouged Navy down the middle repeatedly - broke the Mids.

The first block gave Rutgers the ball at the Navy 23 four minutes into the second half. Five plays later, Teel found sophomore receiver Tiquan Underwood for a 9-yard touchdown, making it 17-0 with 9:21 left in the quarter. After another three-and-out by Navy, Rutgers sophomore safety Glen Lee came up the middle untouched, blocked another attempt by punter Greg Veteto and recovered it at the Mids' 9.

Four plays later, junior Jeremy Ito kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 20-0.

Early in the fourth quarter, Teel hit senior wide receiver Jason Thompson down the middle for a 30-yard score, making it 27-0.

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

Rutgers 0 10 10 14 - 34

Navy 0 0 0 0 - 0

Second Quarter Rut-FG Ito 30, 8:39. Rut-Underwood 25 pass from Teel (Ito kick), 1:17.

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