Heading into Saturday night's game against Rice in Houston, Navy Coach Charlie Weatherbie, for the first time in his five-year tenure at the academy, is having to fix the Midshipmen's once-prolific offense.

Except for a 48-point outburst against Kent, the Midshipmen have scored 14 points or fewer in four of six games, dating from last season. Though Navy has averaged 416 yards per game this season, it often has broken down on third downs and when it has gotten inside the 20-yard line.

The problem, Weatherbie said, has little to do with the option-oriented offense, and everything to do with poor execution. "What we saw in the Boston College game was a breakdown here or there, and it was never the same person," Weatherbie said. "We'd miss a block, or miss a read, or miss something in a crucial situation."

He was particularly distressed that in Saturday's 14-10 loss to Boston College, the Midshipmen (1-2) failed to score a touchdown on their first two series, the first of which included a first down at BC's 9-yard line, and the second of which included a first down at BC's 12.

"If I had [it] to do over again, I'd have called different plays, knowing what I know now -- that we didn't execute the plays that we had," Weatherbie said. "Definitely, we've got to improve from the 20-yard line going in."

Weatherbie also cited a breakdown on a fourth-and-two play with 5 minutes 30 seconds to go. On a play that all but ended Navy's chance to win, Navy missed three blocks, and quarterback Brian Broadwater was tackled for a seven-yard loss.

"Psychologically, everyone's down," nose guard David Ryno said. "We could be easily sitting 2-1 right now after a big Boston College win. We need to get everyone's mind off of that, get a good taste in our mouths and get back on track to where we're supposed to be."

Packing Them In

More than 54,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday night's game, which is expected to draw the largest crowd at Rice Stadium since 1978. The Owls' largest home crowd last season was 42,674.

The Midshipmen are hoping for better weather than they got for their last game at Rice. In 1992, play was delayed for more than an hour because of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Spencer to Return

Sophomore wide receiver Harry Spencer, who has missed the first three games with a fracture in his lower back, should be ready to return next week against West Virginia, according to a team source.

Spencer could give Navy a deep threat other than Travis Williams -- and the Midshipmen have needed as much help as they could get in that area since Ryan Read, who averaged 25.5 yards on 17 receptions last season, transferred to Boston College after last season.