- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Homecoming will be a little bit different for the Navy football team this year, mostly because some familiar faces won't be coming home.

As the United States begins its military response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, several prominent former players have been sent overseas, an action resonating with many of the Midshipmen as they prepare for Saturday's game against Rice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

"For the most part, [the response] really hits close to home," sophomore linebacker Andy Sinitiere said. "It's going to directly impact us in several years [when we graduate]. On top of that, it's just our country, so we're just as interested as anybody else."

Probably more so. All Naval Academy graduates must serve five years in the military in exchange for their schooling, so a prolonged offensive or war would involve many of the Mids.

"We've heard from some guys that heard from a guy that heard from a guy about some Navy SEALS," Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie said. "Clint Bruce [class of 97], Brian Drechsler [98] and Steve Holley [2000] are three guys that come to mind. I'm sure there were others down at Norfolk who were among those who were employed."

Still, Weatherbie maintained that the turmoil especially evident on campus, where heightened security means ID checks at the gates and sandbag bunkers set up around campus hasn't distracted the Mids.

"There's really not any reason to dwell on it," said Weatherbie, whose team fell to 0-4 after a 24-18 loss to Air Force on Saturday. "We talked about it the first week that it happened. Those guys, when they come over to football practice, they're ready to get anything outside off their minds. They're ready to release."

Some prominent alumni will be at the game. Navy will honor its 1981 Liberty Bowl team, including former Navy and Virginia coach George Welsh, at halftime.


To play or not to play

Talks about adding an 11th game to the schedule continued yesterday and could be concluded this week, according to Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk. The Mids' game at Northwestern on Sept. 15 was canceled after the terrorist attacks.

The decision may rest on how the players have done in classes this semester because any additional game would be added Nov. 24, the week of exams and the week before the Army-Navy clash, Gladchuk said.

While no possible opponents have been revealed, Gladchuk implied a Division I-AA team was likely. Among regional teams looking for a game are James Madison, William & Mary and Towson.


Mismatch?

That's what Saturday's game looks like, at least from a statistical point of view. The Mids have the worst rushing defense in the country, allowing 270 yards a game, while the Owls (4-1) have the second-best rushing offense in Division I-A at 269.2 yards a game.

"It's hard to argue with stats," junior defensive end Dan Person said. "I know we're better than that. You can see the last couple of games [were getting better], and by the end we'll see we're not the 115th team."

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