Navy Coach Paul Johnson walked off the practice field on Wednesday and was smiling for the first time in a long time. Throughout preseason camp, Johnson had been more than dissatisfied with his team's effort and performance.
"I thought it was one of our better practices; it sure was," Johnson said. "It was better. They tease me with one of these every once in a while just to show me they can."
Johnson isn't sure what to expect when the Midshipmen open the season tomorrow against Duke at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Coming off its third winning season in the last 20 years, Navy has looked sluggish on offense and uninspired overall during the last several weeks of practice.
"I think you're always concerned," Johnson said. "I just hope that our guys understand the way they've got to play to be successful. We're not going to line up and out-athlete anybody. We've got to play like our hair is on fire. That's what was so special about last year's group. That's the way they played."
The Midshipmen will be without starting right tackle Casey Hughes, who has missed several practices with a sprained ankle. Senior Sam Brown, who saw action for five plays in one game in the previous three seasons, will start in Hughes's absence. Left tackle Tyson Stahl has returned after missing time with a sprained ankle.
Organizers of tomorrow's Detroit Football Classic at Ford Field, which pits Howard against Alabama State, are expecting a sellout crowd of more than 65,000. The Howard University Alumni Club in Detroit says it sold more than 2,000 tickets, and a portion of its ticket sales will go toward Howard scholarships.
"We've had a tremendous response," said Kevin Johnson, events planner for the Howard alumni club. "The whole idea of having this game in Detroit is one thing, but having Howard in it makes it that much more special."
The Detroit alumni club is believed to be Howard's third largest in the nation, with about 5,000 graduates in the metropolitan area there and has been in existence since the 1940s. Detroit Lions defensive end Robert Porcher and two businessmen promote the game, which is in its second year.
Crawford to Start
Senior Andrew Crawford has won Georgetown's quarterback competition, as much by default as performance, and will start tomorrow's opener against St. Francis (Pa.) at Harbin Field. Sophomore Keith Allan, who was the team's No. 1 quarterback entering preseason camp, missed the first scrimmage because of a hip injury, and then sprained his ankle in the second scrimmage two weeks ago. Allan, from Long Valley, N.J., didn't return to practice until yesterday.
"We were probably going to name Keith the starter if he'd been healthy after the second scrimmage," Hoyas Coach Bob Benson said.
Crawford, from Superior, Colo., threw for 1,967 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games last season. Sophomore Nick Cangelosi, a transfer from North Carolina, will be the backup quarterback, and Allan probably won't play against the Red Flash.
Catholic Coach Tom Clark says 11 freshmen will start against Salisbury during tomorrow's opener at DuFour Field, including quarterback Greg Nejmeh of Midland Park, N.J. Nejmeh beat out five others, including freshman Michael Goodman of Sherwood High, who will start at strong safety.
Nejmeh will be the third freshman quarterback to start for Clark at Catholic; Kevin Ricca (1994-1997) and Derek McGee (1998-2001) both were four-year starters.
Nejmeh will get a stiff test from Salisbury, which finished 9-2 last season and was ranked No. 5 in total defense among Division III teams, allowing 224.2 yards per game. The Sea Gulls beat Catholic, 54-20, in last year's opener.