Maryland-Navy a rivalry, but not a classic

Despite dramatic ending, both teams made share of mistakes

September 07, 2010|Peter Schmuck

During the buildup to Monday's "Crab Bowl Classic," the conversation kept coming back to the same subject -- the importance of re-establishing a high-profile college football rivalry between Navy and Maryland.

Time will tell whether this will be an annual affair, but here's the skinny after Maryland made a heart-stopping stand at the goal line to score a 17-14 victory over the Midshipmen:

It played like a rivalry game, but it was no classic.

Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen was all smiles afterward and, predictably, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo was not, but that was because of the final score and the dramatic way the game was decided. When they get back to their respective campuses and start reviewing film, there won't be a whole lot of butt-patting on either side.

The Midshipmen may have left it all out on the field, but they left most of it inside the 10-yard line, where they came up empty four times in a game that was decided by one field goal. The Terps may have made a terrific stand during the last minute of the game, but they led by two touchdowns early and handed over the momentum on a couple of occasions with big turnovers.

Perhaps, for Maryland, that happened most glaringly in the second quarter, when the Terps seemed to be on the verge of running right over the favored Mids. They marched down the field on their first two possessions to take a 14-0 lead and answered a Navy touchdown by marching into the red zone on their third possession of the game.

To that point, they had run a total of 16 plays for 171 yards, all on the ground. That's an average of almost 11 yards per play, and there was no indication that Navy was going to stop them anytime soon, but Terps quarterback Jamarr Robinson picked that moment to go for it all and threw an interception at the 4 that caused a major shift in momentum.

"We were driving it for the third time, and that kind of lost some of our momentum," Friedgen said afterward. "We had a couple of sacks. A couple offsides. We really weren't functioning."

Somehow, the Terps survived on a day when they absolutely had to if there is to be any chance for a significant turnaround after last year's 2-10 collapse. Trouble is, they didn't really have themselves to thank.

Navy came in favored by about a touchdown and hoping to launch the Heisman candidacy of quarterback Ricky Dobbs. It's possible to make the case that the Midshipmen should have won the game by as many as three touchdowns, but they kept coming unglued at the goal line. Dobbs fumbled the ball away twice inside the 5 and the Mids squandered another opportunity when they allowed the clock to run out 2 yards from the end zone at halftime.

Don't misunderstand. It was a very intense game that provided a national ESPN audience with plenty of entertainment and suspense. It just wasn't the game that either team wanted to leave in the nation's collective college football consciousness.

The Navy program has built a reputation for playing a unique brand of smart, mistake-free football that has allowed the Mids to return to national prominence under former coach Paul Johnson and now Niumatalolo, but they delivered an uncharacteristically sloppy performance that is sure to take a bite out of Dobbs' Heisman aspirations.

"I can't remember a time where we rushed for 400 yards and lost a ballgame," Niumatalolo said. "There's no consolation in moving the ball. The object of the game is to score and they did a good job of keeping us out. We just had some mental lapses. I got outcoached. This is a team loss."

The Terps, meanwhile, ended a seven-game losing streak and put themselves in position to get off to a positive start with a couple of winnable nonconference games at Byrd Stadium wrapped around a tough Sept. 18 game at West Virginia. They ran the ball well, but Robinson will have to throw the ball with more confidence if they are to stage a real turnaround this season.

Friedgen wasn't ready to start thinking about Morgan State next week. He used his postgame media briefing to make one more appeal for Navy-Maryland to become a real, every-year rivalry.

"I think both teams come out in this stadium and they see the corps over there and all red over here and it's just an exciting time," he said. "I think the more we play the more exciting it will get."

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and with Brett Hollander on Tuesday and Thursday at six. Also, check out his blog "The Schmuck Stops Here" at

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