Navy Coach Gary Tranquill hasn't been able to remedy his team's inconsistencies on offense and defense, blown assignments or slow starts each game. But lack of enthusiasm by the players hasn't been a problem.
"The guys are working hard in practice and playing hard," Tranquill said today at his weekly press luncheon. "And when you continue to do both and don't succeed, it's very, very tough. Each week, we go out and lay it on the line and I still believe we're getting better.
"A lot of the guys aren't happy, a few of them are mad," said Tranquill, whose team is 1-3 following last week's 29-22 loss at Air Force. "We still aren't making the big plays offensively. You live with third-down situations and we're getting progressively worse."
Last year, Navy was 0-2 and sinking fast when Division I-AA Lehigh came to Annapolis. Navy routed the Engineers, 30-0.
The Midshipmen are close to sinking again and a victory here Saturday against much-improved Lehigh (4-1) could solve a few problems.
Although the Engineers haven't played a team nearly as strong as the teams that beat Navy -- Arkansas, Virginia and Air Force -- Tranquill isn't taking anything for granted.
"Lehigh has enough talent to beat you," Tranquill said. "They are as big as anyone we've faced and they throw the ball well. I'm concerned about (quarterback) Marty Horn and (end) Rennie Benn, who are good at the pitch-and-catch game. They throw out of the shotgun and, after facing a wishbone two straight weeks, we'll have to do a bit of adjusting."
Navy has yielded an average of 428 yards -- 226 on the ground -- and 28.2 points per game. Also, the Midshipmen have been giving up big plays (14 plays by Air Force netted 10 or more yards).
Lehigh has scored 137 points in five games. Horn, a junior, has thrown 40 career touchdown passes, 29 to Benn. This season, Horn has completed 55 percent of his passes for more than 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Benn has 36 receptions for 592 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"We've been in a few games that weren't exactly titanic defensive battles, but we're positive and much farther ahead of schedule than we thought we'd be," said Walter Whitehead, the defensive coordinator and son of Coach John Whitehead.
"Navy may have lost three straight games but we know what they're capable of. They play good defense (allowing Lehigh 123 yards offense in 1983) and we'll have to play error-free ball to stay close. This is a big challenge for us."
The good news for Tranquill is that defensive tackle Matt Kirby (thigh) and fullback John Berner (bruised kneecap) will play Saturday.
Tranquill said sophomore Bill Byrne, despite completing only 10 of 31 passes for 95 yards at Air Force, will start against Lehigh.
"I'm pleased with Byrne. He's not executing as well as we'd like at times but he's isn't making big mistakes," Tranquill said. "He's thrown more than 100 passes (108) and only four interceptions. So, he's making good decisions."
Navy's Eric Wallace, after his 97-yard return against Air Force, is ranked first in the nation in kickoff returns with a 37.4 average . . . Tailback Rich Clouse rushed for a career-high 140 yards and has 235 yards since replacing Napoleon McCallum (broken ankle). Clouse needs 100 yards to reach 1,000 . . . Navy has defeated Lehigh 12 times with one tie in 18 meetings. Before last year's game, all others were played between 1889-1913.