- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

When Navy lost homecoming games in previous years to the likes of Duke and Rice, they were merely disappointing defeats in disappointing seasons. Last week’s homecoming loss to Delaware caused more of a stir — and for that, the Midshipmen should be thankful.

The loss ended a three-game winning streak, hurt the Midshipmen’s bowl chances and brought the team back to reality after its best start since 1996 as it awaits today’s home date with Tulane. But at least people took notice, something fans in Annapolis haven’t done for a while. The Mids (5-3) were aware of the extra support, which made the loss to the Division I-AA Blue Hens even more painful.

“It’s a pride thing,” cornerback Vaughn Kelley said. “We’ve got a lot of people behind us and excited about us that haven’t been like this since I’ve been here. The Brigade [of midshipmen] and the fans were great last week, and we didn’t live up to their expectations. All I did was eat and go to sleep after the game ‘cause I wanted the day to be over. I was shaking when we watched film on Monday ‘cause I was so mad. You just don’t lose homecoming.”

Adding to the pain was that the main reasons for the defeat were turnovers (the Mids committed three) and a faltering ground game (180 yards, compared to the previous average of 321), areas in which the Mids had excelled.

But now the team must forget about Delaware with two of its toughest tests of the season looming. After Tulane’s visit, the Mids head to South Bend, Ind., next weekend for their annual tussle with the Fighting Irish.

Navy hasn’t defeated Notre Dame in 39 years, but the Mids can’t afford to overlook the Green Wave, who may be the tougher opponent. Injuries to Tulane’s defense, however, give the Mids a good chance of re-establishing their running game.

Eight Tulane defensive lineman have missed time this season. It has gotten so bad that an offensive lineman, Willie Christian, will be playing defensive end today.

Defensively, the Mids will face their toughest test to date against Tulane’s high-powered offense. The Green Wave (3-5) have two potential first-round draft picks in quarterback J.P. Losman and running back Mewelde Moore. The speedy Moore is only the second player in Division I-A history with 4,000 career rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards.

Over the past three years, the Green Wave averaged more than 46 points against the Mids, all Tulane victories. The trend obviously must stop for Navy to win.

“They threw it over our head, underneath our head, wherever they wanted last year,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “They had a little of everything.”

Yet the Tulane offense has averaged under 25 points a game the past four weeks after scoring 36 points a game over the first month. Losman’s play has been part of the problem. In the Green Wave’s four-game losing streak, he has passed for a little more than 200 yards a game and thrown seven interceptions. But Johnson said Losman could be poised for a big game.

“They’ve scored 143 points in three games [against Navy],” Johnson said. “If you haven’t been playing well, I would think you’d be licking your chops to get up here to have a shot at that.”

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