Nerves aside, Mids try to roll on

With victory over Army, Navy would become first to win six in row in series


December 01, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

The Navy offense operates with precision, as a good Navy operation should. Junior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada reads defenses and makes the split-second decisions about handoffs, pitches and keepers with refined anticipation.

Today, in the 108th meeting between Army and Navy at M&T Bank Stadium, Kaheaku-Enhada is hoping his performance is spot on.

If Navy wins, it would become the first team in the series to win this game six straight times and would clinch a fifth consecutive Commander in Chief's Trophy.

"I don't want to be the guy who lets down the program," Kaheaku-Enhada said. "I don't want to be the guy who doesn't beat Army."

A year ago, Navy beat Army, 26-14, but Kaheaku-Enhada said he was anything but the reason the Midshipmen won.

"I wasn't mentally sharp," he said. "When it comes right down to running our base offense, we scored seven points. We had that one good drive, and we ran a trick play. That's it. I had the worst game of my whole life versus Army. I'm looking forward to redeeming myself."

Why he misfired, Kaheaku-Enhada isn't sure, but it was only his fifth start and his first Army-Navy game. He said he thinks he was merely too anxious.

"I was overwhelmed," he said. "It's the one game I was really nervous for. I can't put my finger on it, but I couldn't calm my nerves."

From the day the plebes arrive at Navy, they hear about the importance of beating Army.

"You're in the halls and you hear someone yell, `Go Navy' and someone answers, `Beat Army,'" Kaheaku-Enhada said. "It's like part of our country's heritage. Who else gets to say that every day?"

This time, the quarterback expects things to go differently. "I've got to take care of my job," he said. And coach Paul Johnson said he believes his quarterback and his entire team are ready to play.

"You can only watch so much film," Johnson said.

You can only anticipate so much, said Army coach Stan Brock, who has told his offense to treasure the ball and impressed on his defense to avoid a coverage lapse.

"It's going to be a huge challenge," Brock said. "But we think we're ready. ... These are kids who have never beaten Navy. Someday, they will be out in the military world, and the first question is, `Are you a West Point graduate?' Then, `Did you beat Navy?' This game gives them the chance to say, `Yes, I did. We beat them in 2007.'"

The Cadets are as tough as the Midshipmen. Honed by the same rigorous training, the same classroom agenda.

"They're just like us," Navy senior slotback Reggie Campbell said.

"It's the toughest game we play all year," Navy senior linebacker Irv Spencer said. "It's all about heart. It's who's willing to sell out."

It's the kind of series in which season records don't matter. Navy holds a slim lead, 51-49-7. Last year, when the Mids came in with an 8-3 record and Army was 3-8, the Cadets' defense played so well that without a Navy reverse and a fourth-quarter Army turnover, the Cadets could have won.

"Looking over the three years I've been here," Army senior wide receiver Jeremy Trimble said, "losing every time to Navy and having a sour taste in my mouth every time we ended a season, this final one, my final college game, means everything to me. For us seniors, it can be the program-changing win and also could be a career-defining win. We're going out there and giving it all we've got, and we're going to leave everything on the field."

Just like Navy.

"It would be sickening to lose," said Campbell, the Navy slotback.

Note -- A report on that Johnson could be named head coach at Southern Methodist early next week is being denied by academy officials. "The Naval Academy has not been contacted by anyone to gain permission to talk to Coach Johnson, and Coach Johnson has not talked to anyone," Navy sports information director Scott Strasemeier

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