George Welsh walked out of the Navy locker room, looked up at the gray sky and felt the cold wind blowing into his face off the Severn River.

"This isn't too bad," the coach said with a smile. "Let's go to work."

With that, Navy's football team began workouts for its Liberty Bowl game against Ohio State Dec. 30. This was the first time the Midshipmen had been together since Welsh called a meeting Tuesday night and told them he was leaving after the Liberty Bowl to become the head coach at Virginia.

"It's still just a game, but you still have to approach it like a business," said tight end Greg Papajohn. "We know Coach Welsh will do his best to get us prepared for Ohio State. It's better he told us up front and got everything out in the open. That's just the way he is. As far as the Ohio State game goes, we don't expect him to coach any differently and we don't expect to play any differently."

"Everything just happened all at once, and this is the first time we've had a chance to just relax, put it behind us and think about playing football again," said junior defensive back Ray Daly.

"We were really at a low until today. The (3-3) tie with Army put us there and then we had to go through finals and then the thing about Coach Welsh. But things are looking bright again. The excitement starts to seep right out of you once you put on the pads. We're ready for another game."

"We're really fired up," said sophomore quarterback Marco Pagnanelli. "We're excited. The stuff about Coach Welsh leaving has died down and the question everyone keeps asking now is who'll take his place. We'll just have to wait and see like everyone else. All we're trying to think about now is Ohio State."

Added Daly: "It would be a nice going-away present for Coach Welsh if we could win the game for him, but I think we're playing it more for ourselves."

It was a light workout today, lasting only an hour to get the team loosened up. It was the first time the Midshipmen had practiced since the Army game Dec. 5.

Welsh said the players will have hard workouts the next four days, then will get a four-day break for Christmas. The players are due in Memphis Dec. 26 to resume practice for the bowl game four days later.

Ohio State finished with an 8-3 record and tied Iowa for the Big 10 championship. The Buckeyes haven't shown the Midshipmen much respect and there are all sorts of clippings hanging in the Navy locker room reminding them of it.

"I'm kind of glad they think that way," Daly said.

"If they really believe they're that much better than us, they're going to be in trouble," said Papajohn.