- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 14, 2009

One of the points of emphasis that Navy’s coaches harped on before the Midshipmen played Notre Dame last week was their familiarity with Notre Dame Stadium following their 2007 upset win.

So during the walkthrough, the coaches did a roll call of who was on the field that day.

“About all of [the seniors] stood up because all of them were playing as true sophomores,” defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. “Some of them didn’t know they were going to play, and most of them thought, ‘I’m going to be on special teams this year.’ ”

It has been an emotional week in Annapolis as senior day creeps closer. Navy’s class of 2010 has a 32-17 record, has qualified for a bowl each year and can capture the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the fourth consecutive time by beating Army on Dec. 12 in Philadelphia.

On Saturday, Navy’s 32 seniors and their families will be recognized before the Mids (7-3) host Delaware (6-3).

“Like the classes that have come before, they’ve played a big part in a lot of wins here, a lot of memorable times for Navy football,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Not only do we feel good about them as football players, they’ll make great Navy [and] Marine Corps officers.”

A mishmash of thoughts have run through the minds of the seniors this week, from trying to grasp the idea of playing at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the final time - “It’s just kind of crazy, and it’s slowly starting to set in,” cornerback Blake Carter said - to reflections on their careers.

It also has provided an opportunity for them to focus on their passion for football.

“I’ve been trying to spend a little time just thinking and thanking God for all the blessings that’s come,” defensive captain Ross Pospisil said. “I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in life - and it’s easy to do that here. I’m just trying to take a step back and enjoy the process of getting ready for the game.”

The waves of emotions for the coaching staff differ from class to class. Last year, offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper got choked up before quarterbacks Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant played their final home game.

Green said he is expecting to get caught up in the moment. His unit was racked by injuries in 2007, and many of the seniors were forced into action as sophomores. It wasn’t always pretty - there was a 59-52 loss to Delaware and a 74-62 victory at North Texas - but the unit has come together into what coach Charlie Weis called “by far the best Navy defense” he has seen in his five-year tenure at Notre Dame.

“This group is as special a group as I’ve ever had because we all went through some growing pains together,” Green said. “I’ve gotten a chance to watch them mature after throwing them in the fire maybe too early. When you get close to that many guys, sure, it’ll be emotional.”

The attention will assuredly be on the seniors Saturday, but Navy’s underclassmen are feeling the heat, too. Junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who likely will be voted offensive captain next season, said the underclassmen recognize the magnitude of the game. The Mids have won six straight on senior day.

“This is definitely an emotional game for them,” Dobbs said. “All the guys who do play, as far as the freshmen and sophomores and juniors, we want to send [the seniors] out on a good note. It’s just a little bit more added pressure, getting win number eight and sending the seniors out in style.”