Tulane came to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium yesterday intent on passing its way to victory with a style that Navy Coach Charlie Weatherbie called "basketball on grass."
The fast-breaking offense proved effective until the Midshipmen countered with full-court pressure, making five interceptions and using a relentless rushing game to score the final 24 points of a 45-21 victory before 32,840 at Navy's final home game of the season.
"We just had to adjust to the speed of the game," said Weatherbie, whose team had to face a no-huddle offense and 52 passing attempts. "I was impressed with the way our defense came out in the second half and stuffed them."
The victory was the second straight for Navy (4-6), which broke a five-game home losing streak dating from last season. The Midshipmen still have a chance at a .500 season, with remaining games at Hawaii on Saturday night and against Army in Philadelphia on Dec. 4.
With the game tied at 21 at halftime, the Midshipmen used their prolific ground game--which racked up a season-high 417 yards--and the interceptions to take command. Sophomore quarterback Brian Madden led the way with 144 yards rushing and third-quarter touchdown runs of nine, one and two yards.
But the most important factor for Navy was turnovers--forcing them on defense and eliminating them on offense, after losing three fumbles during the first half.
Said Weatherbie: "I just said [at halftime], 'Guys, you're moving the football, and they can't stop you if you just hold onto the ball.' "
He was correct. Navy began the second half with four consecutive scoring drives, taking advantage of interceptions by safety Gary Lane and cornerback Bas Williams on Tulane's first two series of the half.
"Regardless of how you break it down, you can't win a football game like that," said Tulane Coach Chris Scelfo, whose team has lost four consecutive games to fall to 3-7.
Tulane quarterback Patrick Ramsey tied a school record with the five interceptions, the most by the Midshipmen since a 1986 game against Lehigh. Ramsey completed 36 of 52 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns that put the Green Wave ahead, 14-7, midway through the first quarter.
"During the first half, we were taking it in the face a little bit," Navy defensive back Davede Alexander said. "They were throwing passes and going to the no-huddle, but once we got in tune with the speed of the game, we pretty much got to the point."
Navy's offense had no trouble getting to the point. Led by Madden, fullback Raheem Lambert (19 carries, 101 yards) and slotback John Vareen (eight carries, 73 yards), Navy shredded Tulane for 456 yards.
Two of Navy's senior defensive standouts also had big plays, although one was on special teams. With three seconds left in the first quarter, defensive end Gino Marchetti returned a blocked punt by Shaka Martin 10 yards for his first career touchdown. It was Navy's second blocked punt for a touchdown in three games. Later, safety Jamie Doffermyre made his first career interception.
The crowd brought Navy's season attendance average at home to 31,996, a school record.