Stanford 41, Navy 38
On a night when Navy slotback Karlos Whittaker made school history by becoming the first freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game, the Midshipmen were left pondering their future after a 41-38 loss to Stanford at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Navy fell to 0-2 after losing another close game to a physically superior opponent from a major conference, damaging its hopes to play in a bowl game for a school-record third consecutive year. The Midshipmen have not posted a winning season after opening 0-2 since 1928, when they rallied to finish 5-3-1.
The Midshipmen, who lost to Maryland, 23-20, last week, dropped their first two games of the season for the ninth time in the past 20 years, and in each of those seasons, they finished with more than three victories just once.
"I'd like to get one win," said Coach Paul Johnson, whose team next plays at Rice on Sept. 24. "I'm not thinking about getting six wins."
For the second time in as many games, the Midshipmen failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and their defense wilted in the second half before 35,670, the fourth-largest crowd in stadium history.
Stanford scored two touchdowns and added a 40-yard field goal on its first four possessions of the second half to win its season opener under its new coach, Walt Harris.
After the score was tied at 21 at halftime, Stanford opened the third quarter by driving 65 yards in just seven plays and two minutes 30 seconds to take a 28-21 lead on a three-yard run by sophomore running back Anthony Kimble.
After Navy pulled to within 28-24 on Joey Bullen's 39-yard field goal, Stanford's Gerren Crochet scored on a 46-yard reverse and Michael Sgroi added a 40-yard field goal to extend the lead to 38-24 with 14:47 left.
"That's two weeks in a row we've been in a game at the end and they made more plays that we did," Johnson said. "We didn't get it done at the end. We need to find a way to win."
Navy pulled to within a touchdown when senior quarterback Lamar Owens found senior slotback Marco Nelson wide open for 54-yard scoring pass with 12:38 left, but Sgroi answered with a 47-yard field goal with 7:13 remaining.
Navy made its final push when fullback Adam Ballard's three-yard touchdown run with 2:09 remaining capped an 80-yard drive. The Midshipmen then got the ball back on their 15-yard line with 1:37 remaining after forcing Stanford to punt.
Navy junior quarterback Brian Hampton -- filling in for Owens, who was sidelined with leg cramps midway through the fourth quarter -- overthrew receiver Jason Tomlinson on fourth and nine, allowing Stanford to run out the clock.
Special teams kept Navy in the game early. With Stanford leading 7-0, Reggie Campbell stripped the ball from punt returner David Marrero, and Nelson scooped it up and ran 17 yards for a touchdown. But Stanford's T.J. Rushing returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards to make it 14-7.
Navy's running game, which amassed just 10 yards on 13 carries in the first quarter, then came to life. After three consecutive running plays gained 24 yards to the Stanford 44, Whittaker took a pitch from Owens and took it the rest of the way down the sideline.
"I showed a little something, but I still need to improve because I made some mistakes," said Whittaker, who finished with 110 yards on seven carries. "I think what I did was balanced."
Stanford threatened just before halftime, driving to the Navy 1 with seven seconds left before intermission. The Cardinal eschewed a field goal attempt, and safety Greg Sudderth jarred the ball from Edwards's grasp and time expired.
"What frustrating is that there was a lot of things that we could have done better," said Nelson, who rushed for 34 yards on seven carries and caught four passes for 98 yards. "We had our chances."