ANNAPOLIS, SEPT. 16 -- Call it the 1987 State of the Navy Football Team Message.

"Can we have a winning season? Yes. I really believe that in my whole heart," Coach Elliot Uzelac said today at his weekly news conference. "But we have to play smarter. We have to play with more intensity. And we have to play together as a team throughout.

"We are not good enough to just go out there any Saturday and just lay it on the line, so to speak. We are not that well endowed with talent. But we have enough players so that if they play hard, smart, physical for four quarters, we can win our share.

"But we can't make the mistakes and do the things we did Saturday. We're not good enough to get out of that hole.

"The players know this because I've told them. I've said it from last spring."

So the coach knew it. And the players knew it. Now, you know it -- unless, of course, you figured it out last Saturday.

In their season opener, against William and Mary, the Midshipmen made a seemingly endless number of mistakes in the first half. They fell behind, 27-0, after just over 24 minutes of play. They came back, but not nearly far enough. They lost, 27-12.

Navy's overall losing streak stands at eight. Its losing streak against Division I-AA teams stands at three. If it doesn't beat I-AA Lehigh this Saturday (Homecoming Day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, 2 p.m.), things could get a whole lot worse. After Lehigh (which Navy beat, 41-0, here last season) come, in order, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Air Force, Penn, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

"We can't worry about the rest of the schedule; we have to worry about Lehigh {which defeated Davidson, 47-0, last week}," senior quarterback John Nobers said. "We're not going to get any better if we don't win that first one."

On the other hand, if Navy doesn't play better, it's going to have trouble winning that first one.

"I told them {the team} the disappointing thing was that I had seen us scrimmage and even practice with more intensity and be physical than we were in the game," Uzelac said.

The reason?

"The biggest problem that jumped in our face -- which we tried to do everything to resolve, but obviously, we didn't -- was their real lack of experience and their inability to respond to a game situation until probably the very end of the second quarter.

"Three people are {returning} starters out of 22. I think they're all looking around at each other and saying, 'Who's going to get it going?' And no one got it going.

"So we're trying to tell them, 'Hey look, you're the team, let's go. Don't worry about the past. Don't worry about where you were last year. You're playing now and you have to play really well to get it done.' "

Navy Notes: Junior Paul Parker will replace sophomore James Bradley at right halfback, so Navy can get more speed into its backfield, Uzelac said. Parker, Uzelac said, runs 40 yards in 4.6 seconds . . . Competition is taking place for starting assignments at center (between Matt Felt and Ray Berzins), left defensive tackle (Troy Holland and Scott Prinz), inside linebacker (if Pat Donnelly can regain a spot) and in the secondary (depending on the availability of injured safety Curtis Irby and injured cornerback Albert Peltier, both of whom resumed light workouts). "It's not an issue of it being certain guys' fault that we lost last week because that's not the case," Uzelac said. "I just want to get some more competition out of certain spots."