Close is not a good feeling for Navy Coach Charlie Weatherbie.
After Saturday night's 48-41 loss to the University of Hawaii at Aloha Stadium, Weatherbie has seen his team finish on the short end of enough close games to last a lifetime.
For the sixth time this season, Navy lost a game by seven points or less.
"You have to learn to win the close football games," Weatherbie said. "It's simple. Until you can learn to win the close football games, you're going to be sad when you go into the locker room."
This time, the Midshipmen were driving for a potential game-tying touchdown in the final minute when Hawaii cornerback Quincy LeJay intercepted Brian Madden's pass at the Rainbows 6-yard line with 36 seconds remaining. It was the third turnover by the Midshipmen in a game they led 16-10 midway through the second quarter.
"Any time you turn the football over three times on offense, you're going to get beat--I don't care who you're playing," Weatherbie said. "I didn't expect to make those kind of mistakes and I didn't expect them to score 48 points."
The Midshipmen (4-7) end their season against Army Dec. 4 in Philadelphia.
They were in Saturday's game in the fourth quarter despite losing Madden for all of the third quarter and the first five minutes of the fourth because of dehydration. After scrambling for seven yards on the first play of the second half, Madden left the field with cramps.
"I had some problems with [dehydration] in high school," said Madden, who rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another score. "I tried to drink a lot of fluids, but I guess it caught up with me tonight. I went in and got an IV [in the third quarter]. I felt good and went back out there."
Madden returned to lead the Midshipmen on two scoring drives in a 1-minute, 4-second span of the fourth quarter. Navy tied the game at 41 on Madden's one-yard run with 7:23 left, after a fumble by Hawaii quarterback Dan Robinson at the Hawaii 16. A fumble by Rainbows running back Avion Weaver at the Hawaii 21 on the previous series led to a six-yard score by Navy running back Raheem Lambert, who finished with 120 yards on 18 carries.
But Hawaii (8-3) responded with a seven-play, 70-yard drive, capped by Robinson's 26-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Dwight Carter.
"We had two or three interceptions hit us in the hands and dropped them," Weatherbie said. "You've got to make plays over there. Offensively, we work and preach and fight not to have turnovers because you're just shooting yourself in the foot. We're disappointed because we got close. We just didn't make the plays when we needed to the most."
In the end, Navy wasn't only disappointed, but winded as well. Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense left the Midshipmen exhausted. Robinson attempted 63 passes, completing 37 for 530 yards and five touchdowns. He set 11 team marks, including most career passing yards (5,784 in two seasons) and most passing yards in a game.
With the victory, Hawaii broke the NCAA record for the most victories after a winless season and tied the eight-game single-season turnaround set in 1940 by Stanford and equaled by Purdue in 1943.
"The way Navy played defense kind of plays into the hands of passing teams," Hawaii Coach June Jones said. "If you play a lot of three-deep on us, it's going to be a long day for your defense. I think we demonstrated that."