- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2005

After losing its first two games by three points each, Navy’s football team might have been ready for a break. If so, the Midshipmen certainly had their wish granted.

Three weeks after losing to Stanford 41-38 in Annapolis, Navy returns to action today against Duke (1-3) at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C. Because of an open date Sept. 17 and the postponement of a Sept. 24 game at Rice because of Hurricane Rita, the Mids had the longest break between regular-season games in program history.

Navy has practiced 44 times this season and played only twice.

“It’s almost like having fall camp all over again,” cornerback Jeremy McGown said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. I just hope we won’t be rusty. I’m hoping this layoff will have us ready to go out and play even more.”

No player is more eager to play again than quarterback Lamar Owens. The senior captain is 0-for-2 in playing a full game because of cramps — first in his hand against Maryland and then his leg against Stanford.

Owens has spent three weeks answering the same questions. What is causing the cramps? Is it corrected? Do you think you can play the whole game? The opening kickoff can’t come soon enough for him.

“I’m not really going to worry about it. I just want to play the game and whatever happens [happens],” Owens said. “If I can’t control it, I can’t control it. I’m just going to hydrate myself and be ready.”

Coach Paul Johnson also has heard the same questions repeatedly and has been coy with his plans at the position. Backup Brian Hampton received the same amount of reps as Owens in practice and might play earlier in the game as a way to keep Owens fresh.

Quarterback isn’t the only position where personnel rotations are unsettled. The Mids haven’t had enough game experience for the coaching staff to find a rhythm with substitutions.

The same can be said for the Blue Devils despite their two extra games. Junior Mike Schneider has started all four games at quarterback but has been replaced in the last two by freshman Zack Asack, who has thrown both of the team’s touchdown passes.

Then there is Curt Dukes, a junior in his second season after transferring from Nebraska. He brings a run-first dimension but barely played last week and not at all the week before.

Cedric Dargan had a good first half against Navy last season, and while he is listed as the starter, sophomore Justin Boyle leads the team in carries (57) and yards (213) — more than double Dargan’s total.

It is homecoming weekend in Durham, and the Blue Devils’ next three opponents — Miami, Georgia Tech and Florida State — are all ranked. It’s a much-needed win for both sides.

“They probably hand picked us [for homecoming],” Johnson said. “That’s all right. If I was them and I had to choose between Miami and us, I would have picked us, too.”

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