- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Navy’s defense gave its offense every opportunity to run up the score early against Eastern Michigan yesterday. The offense took scant advantage, waiting until the second half to put the game away.

Four first-half interceptions and a forced fumble on special teams resulted in just 11 Midshipmen points but the offense regrouped in the second half to run the final to 39-7.

Each of Eastern Michigan’s first three possessions ended in turnovers, but a struggling ground game and untimely penalties slowed the Mids’ offense.

That wasn’t the case after the intermission as Navy (2-1) piled up 294 yards of second-half offense. The rushing game found its rhythm and the defense continued to get the ball back in the offenses’ hands quickly to sustain the momentum.

“We did in the second half exactly what we were trying to do in the first half,” slotback Eric Roberts said.

Roberts was one of five Mids to score and was the team’s leading receiver with 47 yards on two catches. Tony Lane picked up 83 yards on five carries while quarterback Craig Candeto rushed for 72 yards and a score.

The win gives Navy its first 2-1 start since 1997 and, after a home win over VMI to open the season, the Mids have won consecutive games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the first time since 1997.

Missed assignments and holding penalties plagued Navy in the first half but a simplified offense moved the ball at will in the second half. A 94-yard, six and a half minute march — bridging the third and fourth quarters — displayed what coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense can do when run correctly.

The Mids picked up 77 yards on the ground with four rushes going for 10 yards or more. After pounding the ball downfield on the ground, Candeto found Roberts up the middle for what appeared to be a 33-yard touchdown strike.

An ineligible man downfield penalty — that Johnson disputed — brought the ball back to the Eagles’ 38 but on the resulting fourth and 13 Candeto completed a 24-yard pass to Marco Nelson for a first down.

“We ran the same play the next play so [the referees] could see what we did,” Johnson said. “In a different game, they call that touchdown back and it could be a huge, huge thing.”

Three rushes later, Candeto scored on a keeper and his day was over. Johnson turned the signal-calling duties over to Aaron Polanco and Lamar Owens the rest of the way. Polanco carried six times for 56 yards.

“Once we settled down we were fine,” Johnson said. “They really couldn’t move the ball on our first defense and after the second quarter, except for the penalties, our offense moved the ball well.”

Safety Josh Smith had two of Navy’s four interceptions, the first coming at his 2 with the Eagles driving and the game still scoreless. Eli Sanders recorded his first career interception late in the first quarter with Eastern Michigan (1-3) again driving into Navy territory.

Linebacker Lane Jackson began the string of interceptions less than a minute into the game when he dove to scoop up a tipped pass just before it hit the ground.

“I’d been thinking about getting a pick,” Jackson said. “I pictured it coming on a blitz just like it did. I envisioned it.”

• Air Force 35, Wyoming 29: In Colorado Springs, Matt Ward scored two touchdowns and Chance Harridge ran for 117 yards as the Falcons (4-0) beat the Cowboys (1-3) in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.

• Tulane 50, Army 33: In West Point, N.Y., J.P. Losman passed for 350 yards and five touchdowns as the Green Wave (3-1) held off a late Army rally and beat the Black Knights (0-3) in the Conference USA opener for both teams.

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