- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Navy coach Paul Johnson has his Midshipmen thinking just the way he likes — positively.

The Mids took little satisfaction from thumping Tulane 35-17 yesterday to assure themselves of their first non-losing season since 1997 and avenge ugly losses to the Green Wave the past three years. The way players saw it, it isn’t time to celebrate yet, especially with Notre Dame coming up Saturday. The last time Navy beat the Fighting Irish (1963), Roger Staubach was the Mids’ quarterback.

“[A 6-3 record is] a good thing for us right now, considering where we’ve been,” quarterback Craig Candeto said. “But if we come out and lose the next three games, nobody’s going to be happy with that record. Coach Johnson has come in and tried to set a higher standard for us, and I think everyone believes in it. If we don’t play perfect, guys are upset.”

Yesterday’s victory wasn’t perfect, but it was enough to send 27,417 spectators at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium home happy. Perfection wasn’t necessary to overwhelm a Tulane team missing 23 players and 13 starters.

The Green Wave’s injuries were most evident on the defensive line, where an inexperienced front four was overpowered by Navy’s rushing attack. The Mids pounded out 357 yards on the ground in a return to their offensive strength after getting away from the run in last weekend’s loss to Delaware.

The Mids uncharacteristically picked up more yardage through the air than on the ground in the loss to the Division I-AA Blue Hens, so they attempted only seven passes yesterday, completing two for 57 yards. But Candeto didn’t have the afternoon off. He rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns, having no trouble confusing Tulane’s defense and repeatedly fooling its front four on the quarterback draw.

Another sign of changing times at Navy was the play of the Mids’ defensive unit. After allowing 40-plus points to the Green Wave in each of the last three years, Navy allowed Tulane 10 first-half points before shutting it out in the second half. The Green Wave’s lone score after intermission came against the second-team defense on the final play of the game.

Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman and running back Mewelde Moore are potential NFL first-round picks and had their moments yesterday, but Navy didn’t give up the big play and clamped down when Tulane (3-6) got into the red zone.

“Coach told us that we were playing a great back [Moore], and we had to get to the ball,” linebacker Eddie Carthan said. “He broke a lot of tackles, but we had five or six people there, so after he bounced off one, he had two or three more right there in his face.”

As well as Johnson has his Mids mentally trained, he can’t expect them to treat the coming week like any other. With 39 straight losses to Notre Dame, the team is already gearing up for a possible victory four decades in the making.

“We’re happy with the progress, but we’re not satisfied,” fullback Kyle Eckel said. “To beat Notre Dame would be enormous. In my mind, that is the most important game of the season.”

• Utah 45, Air Force 43 (OT): In Colorado Springs, tight end Ben Moa, taking a direct snap in the shotgun formation, ran for a 1-yard touchdown and then completed a 2-point conversion pass to Matt Hansen, leading the Utes (7-2, 4-1 Mountain Wets) over the Falcons (6-3, 3-2).

• UAB 24, Army 9: In Birmingham, Ala., Nick Coon caught a 91-yard touchdown pass and the Blazers (4-5, 3-2 C-USA) beat the Black Knights (0-9, 0-7), extending the longest losing streak in Division I-A to 11 games.

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