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  Young Giants Build Up Confidence

By Neil Abt
Washingtonpost.com Correspondent
Monday, November 24, 1997; 4:15 a.m. EST

With 30 players on their roster with less than four full seasons of professional experience, the New York Giants are one of the youngest teams in the National Football League. Even their coach, Jim Fassel, is a rookie.

So faced with the task of playing on the road, in front of a national television audience and with first place in the NFC East on the line, it would seem a 7-7 tie would be cause for celebration. After all, it kept the Giants one game ahead of the Washington Redskins, extended their lead over the Dallas Cowboys to 1½ games and kept New York undefeated in its division.

But despite all that was accomplished Sunday night at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, the Giants left town feeling that a big opportunity had escaped them.

"It feels like a loss as far as I am concerned," second-year quarterback Danny Kanell said. "I am disappointed. We had our opportunities and our defense gave us good field position. . . . We just stopped ourselves. That is what was so frustrating about it."

Said rookie running back Tiki Barber: "I know we didn't lose any ground [in the NFC East], but it is very disappointing we didn't get a win tonight."

There were bright spots, however. Third-year fullback Charles Way and Barber, both from the University of Virginia, combined for 186 total yards. Their backfield mate, Tyrone Wheatley, added 39 yards on 11 carries.

Kanell, making only his sixth career start, completed 20 of 37 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown. His second-quarter fumble led to the Redskins' lone score, but he was not the quarterback who made mistakes in overtime. Instead, it was Redskins quarterback Jeff Hostetler, a 14-year veteran, who threw two interceptions during the extra period.

"Sometimes our offense will score 30 points for us. Other times they will only score seven," linebacker Jesse Armstead said. "We have to take whatever we can get, and make the most of it."

"Young teams are susceptible to giving up big plays in big games, but we showed we were up to the challenge," linebacker Corey Widmer said. "I know we grew as a team tonight."

The Giants' defense, which limited Terry Allen to 64 yards on 27 carries (a 2.4 average), got several big plays from players just nearing their prime.

Fourth-year cornerback Jason Sehorn had eight tackles, along with one interception and a forced fumble. Safety Tito Wooten had seven tackles. Two of rookie Sam Garnes's tackles came during one Redskins drive midway through the fourth quarter. Second-year linebacker Doug Colman led all special-teamers with three tackles.

All of this has Widmer looking forward to the Dec. 13 rematch at Giants Stadium.

"I think we get the edge from the tie because we were the road team," he said. "They still have to come to our house. I'm looking forward to that."

© Copyright 1997 washingtonpost.com

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