After its hopes for a season-opening upset were crushed in a 49-14 loss to 10th-ranked Georgia Tech, the Navy football team is trying to pick up the pieces in time to have a better outcome against a far more manageable opponent -- Kent.
"You take it and try to learn off of it," linebacker Shaka Martin said of the loss. "People saw on film where, at times, they weren't running hard and just not carrying out their fundamentals. I think most people will remember the game and it will be a learning experience."
Coach Charlie Weatherbie was most displeased with his team's shoddy blocking and tackling, and said the Midshipmen will spend extra time on those areas as they get ready for Saturday night's game at Kent.
The Golden Flashes are coming off a 49-3 loss to Cincinnati, their 14th consecutive defeat -- including two losses to Navy. Saturday's game will be followed by a home game against Boston College, which the Midshipmen defeated, 32-31, on the road last season, and Rice, which this past Saturday lost to Houston, 28-3.
So despite the loss to Georgia Tech, the Midshipmen still are thinking positively about the season.
"This is a game where we want to come back and build our confidence up again," Martin said. ". . . That's one of the great things about having 12 games. We lost the first game, but we still have a chance to have a great season."
A Good Game for Lambert
Sophomore fullback Raheem Lambert was one of the few Navy players to have good statistics against Georgia Tech. He rushed for 92 yards on 13 carries in his collegiate debut.
"All of the sudden, in the second half the holes were open," said Lambert, who gained most of his yards after halftime, when the game was out of reach. "I believe that if we were able to do it against Georgia Tech, we should be able to do it against most opponents."
Although Lambert has become a starter for now, he and fellow sophomore Marlon Terrell are expected to split time once Terrell recovers from a slight hamstring injury. Terrell carried once for four yards Saturday.
As a senior at Norte Vista High School in Riverside, Calif., Lambert spurned offers from Stanford, California, Northwestern and Washington State to attend the Naval Academy, largely at the urging of his mother, who saw better career potential for her son at the academy.
Lambert has "good speed and he's a tough young player, but he's got a lot to learn," Weatherbie said. "He's got to become a more total football player. A lot of people can run the football, but you've also got to be a blocker at that position."
Jury Out on New Defense
Navy's first experience with the 3-4 defense had mixed results Saturday. While the scheme achieved its intended goal of reducing the number of big pass plays Navy allows, Georgia Tech continually threw underneath the coverage and gained six or seven yards at a time.
"We were on them on the deep ball, but they converted nine out of 13 third downs, so we weren't tight enough," Weatherbie said.
Still, several Navy players said they see a lot of potential in the 3-4. "I like the way this defense feels," said cornerback Davede Alexander. "It's less man[-to-man] and a lot more seeing the ball in zone coverages."
Packed House Possible
Navy has sold about 32,000 tickets for its game Sept. 18 against Boston College, the highest total for any of its four games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this season. To accommodate the extra fans, the school will place temporary bleachers behind at least one of the end zones.
By game time, the crowd could approach the stadium record of 36,172 set two years ago against Air Force. With temporary seating, the stadium has a capacity of 33,500.