Sunday, August 31, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Last time Craig Candeto took the field, he shredded Army’s defense in a record-setting rushing performance. Against VMI yesterday, Candeto gave his arm a workout.

The senior threw for 121 first-half yards and led the Midshipmen on four consecutive touchdown drives before halftime to set up a 37-10 victory — the team’s first at home since 1999.

“It feels great,” Candeto said. “[Losing] wears on you big time. You come out each week and don’t have success in football games. Trying to come out hard in practice gets tough every week.”

Candeto finished with 96 yards on the ground, but the majority came after a 58-minute weather delay late in the third quarter squashed the momentum the Keydets had built after an early second-half score. VMI was driving deep in Navy territory when play was halted with 54 seconds remaining in the quarter and could manage only a 46-yard field goal when play resumed, cutting Navy’s lead to 28-10.

The Mids responded with a 70-yard drive capped by Candeto’s 2-yard touchdown run and Geoff Blumenfeld’s 42-yard field goal to seal the victory.

“I’m happy to have a win, proud of the effort,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “We made a lot of mistakes, and there’s a lot of room for improvement. But that usually happens in first games.”

Navy confused VMI on defense with three- and five-man fronts and by blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. Ryan Beard, a fullback until practice this week, and Jeff Vanek put pressure on Keydets quarterback Jonathan Wilson from the line, and freshman Keenan Little was active on the corner blitz.

Fullback Kyle Eckel ran for two touchdowns and a career-high 129 yards, and Bronston Carroll ran for 28 yards in the first start of his career. Freshman wide receiver Jason Tomlinson caught three passes for 65 yards and proved the deep threat the Mids need to help stretch opposing defenses.

Navy took a 7-0 lead on an 18-yard touchdown scamper by Tony Lane midway through the first quarter. Eckel ran 3 yards off left tackle on the first play of the second quarter, extending the lead to 14-0. After VMI was forced to punt, Candeto needed only 1:50 to direct a six-play, 70-yard drive that ended with Eckel’s 2-yard score with 10:59 left in the half.

On the next Navy series, Candeto threw a 47-yard completion to Tomlinson and a pass interference penalty on cornerback Sean Hill against Mick Yokitis in the end zone put the ball at the Keydets’ 2. One play later, Candeto scored on a 3-yard keeper, making it 28-0.

cAir Force 49, Wofford 0: Fullback Dan Shaffer scored three touchdowns and Fisher DeBerry won his 150th game as Air Force won in Colorado. Shaffer, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Northwestern in the opener last year and missed the season, ran for 64 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Chance Harridge ran for 92 yards and a touchdown and was 5-for-9 passing for another 61 yards for Air Force.

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