ANNAPOLIS, SEPT. 19 -- After a season-opening loss to William and Mary in which they fell behind by 27 points in the first half then lost by 15, surely things would get better this week for the Midshipmen of Navy and their new coach, Elliot Uzelac.
Before a Homecoming Day crowd of 25,047 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the Midshipmen today came within one possession of complete embarrassment in a 24-9 loss to Lehigh.
The loss was Navy's ninth straight, its longest losing streak since 1970. The Midshipmen also have lost four consecutive games to Division I-AA opponents.
Without Paul Parker's two-yard touchdown run that completed an 18-play, 90-yard drive with 14 minutes left in the game and Bob Sunderland's extra point, the final score would have been 24-2, with the two coming on a safety off a bad punt snap.
Had Lehigh been able to score more than 17 first-half points when it was inside Navy's 25-yard line on each of its first five possessions, who knows what the final score would have been.
"You lose 7-6 or 90-6, it's still bad," Uzelac said.
Making it worse for the Midshipmen is the frustration that comes from knowing that whatever potential they have is being overwhelmed by mistakes.
"You have 371 yards of total offense, just two punts, and you only score nine points," Uzelac mused. "That's crazy."
Not when you have nine fumbles, of which you lose two, one interception, two missed field goals and one botched field goal attempt.
"I thought our players played hard," Uzelac said. "But we made critical mistakes on offense that were costly and mistakes that led to big plays on defense.
"I don't know if it's physical mistakes, that we just can't do any better, or it's mental mistakes," Uzelac said. "It's a bad situation."
Senior quarterback John Nobers rushed for 87 yards on 20 carries, but passed for just 72. He completed just five of 13 passes and was replaced by freshman Alton Grizzard after his pass into coverage with 7:22 to play was intercepted. The interception came just two plays after Lehigh (2-0) made the score 24-9 and killed any hope Navy had.
Nobers and Grizzard both declined to be interviewed.
"I think everyone's pretty upset," Uzelac said. "But, hell, they should be. I expect them to win. They expect to win."
Navy started paving the road to defeat early.
The Midshipmen took the opening kickoff at their 42, moved in two plays to the 50, then failed on a third down and two and a fourth down and one.
Lehigh quickly drove to first and goal at Navy's 5. However, after three penalties, including one that nullified a touchdown, the Engineers ended up with a 40-yard field goal attempt by Mike Beattie that was short.
Lehigh was back in business two plays later, courtesy of a fumble by fullback Curtis Brown that was recovered by linebacker Gary Karnish at Navy's 27.
The Engineers gained five yards on three plays and ended up with a 39-yard field goal attempt that, because of a bad snap, Beattie rushed and kicked short and wide.
Helped by a 21-yard pass from Nobers to Carl Jordan and a 20-yard option run by Nobers, Navy moved to Lehigh's 30. However, Jim Pangrazio fumbled and linebacker Kevin Rife recovered at the 28.
After tailback Lee Blum (28 carries, 125 yards) rushed for two yards, Mark McGowan (16 of 25 passing attempts, 192 yards) threw for 51 yards to wide receiver Rob Varano, who had beaten Bob Weissenfels on a fly pattern along the left sideline. Six plays later, McGowan hit John Gorman with a six-yard rollout pass for the touchdown.
Pangrazio couldn't handle Beattie's low kickoff and Navy started out from its 15. However, the drive stalled when Nobers' pitch after being hit resulted in an 11-yard loss from the 19 to the 30. Frank Schenk was short on a 47-yard field goal attempt.
Lehigh needed just 2:42 to drive 70 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-0. The possession ended on a 16-yard option pass from Blum to Gorman that was the first pass of Blum's career.
Navy's ensuing possession lasted three plays. Jim Traa compounded Navy's problems by interfering with a fair catch on Andy Mueck's 26-yard punt. Lehigh went from Navy's 39 to a first and goal at Navy's 9 before sputtering. Linebacker David Lowe stopped Blum's third-down run at the 1. Beattie's 18-yard field goal made it 17-0.
Lehigh 7 10 0 7 24 Navy 0 2 0 7 9
L -- Gorman 6 pass from McGowan (Beattie kick)
L -- Gorman 16 pass from Blum (Beattie kick)
L -- FG Beattie 18
N -- Safety (bad snap on punt)
N -- Parker 2 run (Sunderland kick)
L -- Curtis 9 pass from McGowan (Beattie kick) Lehigh Navy First downs 18 21 Rushes-yards 47-138 67-277 Passing yards 208 94 Return yards 22 0 Passing 17-26-0 6-14-1 Sacked-yards lost 2-16 0-00 Punts-average 4-33.3 2-30 Fumbles-lost 2-0 9-2 Penalties-yards 9-87 2-19 Time of possession 31:
RUSHING -- Lehigh: Blum 28-125, Curtis 12-40, McGowan 2-18, Hickman 2-1, Grossman 1-1. Navy: C. Smith 17-93
PASSING -- Lehigh: McGowan 16-25-0, 192 yards, Blum 1-1-0, 16. Navy: Nobers 5-13-1, 72, Grizzard 1-1-0, 22.
RECEIVING -- Lehigh: Gorman 6-79, Curtis 4-21, Marron 3-19, Varano 2-62, Blum 2-27. Navy: Jordan 2-43, C. S
MISSED FIELD GOALS -- Lehigh: Beattie 2. Navy: Schenk 2.