Midshipmen Notebook

'Rock Star' Reception For Navy After Big Win

By Christian Swezey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

In the wake of a 46-44, triple-overtime win over Notre Dame on Saturday, even the simple task of going to his car proved exciting for Navy senior defensive end Chris Kuhar-Pitters. As he went to move his car before practice yesterday, a couple of midshipmen he had never met approached him and congratulated him on the victory.

"I was wearing my Navy football sweats," Kuhar-Pitters said. "Everyone around here was pretty excited."

The congratulations were appropriate -- Kuhar-Pitters scored a touchdown on a 16-yard fumble return early in the fourth quarter. It was the first defensive touchdown for the Midshipmen (5-4) this season.

The victory ended a 43-year losing streak to the Fighting Irish; the accomplishment drew a mention on "The Howard Stern Show" yesterday and earned the Brigade of Midshipmen a day off from classes.

Coach Paul Johnson issued a moratorium on talking about the Notre Dame victory -- yesterday was the last day the players were allowed to do so. The Midshipmen face North Texas (1-7) on Saturday in Denton, Tex. With a victory, they would become eligible for the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 20.

The players and coaches won't be talking about the win over Notre Dame, but the memories likely will last a lifetime. Most of the Brigade of Midshipmen greeted the players when they arrived back at school near midnight last Saturday.

Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler and Capt. Margaret Klein, the academy superintendent and commandant, respectively, were dancing among the students after getting off the team buses. Several students grabbed Fowler and hoisted him on their shoulders. At one point, he and Klein did a version of the "Superman Dance," made popular by rapper Soulja Boy.

"We saw a few people as the buses pulled in and we wondered what they were doing," Kuhar-Pitters said. "When we saw everyone was waiting for us, we felt like rock stars."

Johnson said he had 27 voice-mail messages on his cellphone after the game.

Senior fullback Adam Ballard said one of the team's stated goals every year is to beat Notre Dame.

"It was a dream come true," Ballard said. "We've had beating Notre Dame as one of the goals since I've been here, and probably they had it long before then. It was pretty cool to finally check that one off."

Ballard's Texas Two-Step

Ballard's home town of Lewisville, Tex., is about five minutes from the North Texas campus. North Texas first-year coach Todd Dodge previously coached at Southlake Carroll (Tex.) High.

His final five teams there went 79-1 and won four Texas 5A state titles. Among those wins was a 63-7 victory over Ballard's Marcus High team in 2002.

"I'm looking forward to going home; I could practically hit a baseball from my house to North Texas," Ballard said. About the game, he added, "I have [63] reasons to be ready for Saturday."

North Texas offensive coordinator Todd Ford coached Ballard in high school in 2001.

"I haven't talked to him in a while, but I'll probably go say hello before the game," Ballard said . . .

Navy added the game against North Texas after Connecticut dropped the Midshipmen from the schedule late last year.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company