Navy junior cornerback Jeremy McGown is tired of hitting his teammates and thinking about the mistakes that left his team winless through its first two games.
"I'm ready for us to go tackle people whose faces we don't see every day," he said. "I can't wait for us to finally move on."
McGown isn't the only Midshipman who feels Saturday's game at Duke can't start soon enough. The Midshipmen have been relegated to practice for more than two weeks, since their game at Rice last Saturday was postponed to Oct. 22 because of Hurricane Rita.
The scheduling change gives the Midshipmen 21 days between their Sept. 10 loss against Stanford and Saturday's game, tying it for the longest layoff in program history.
Navy, which had an open date on Sept. 17, was able to move its game against Rice because each team had an open date on its schedule on Oct. 22.
"At this point it feels like its another season opener because it's been so long since our last game," McGown said. "It's not hard to stay focused, but it has allowed us to try new things."
The biggest change is rethinking who is going to lead its offense. Coach Paul Johnson said he would likely use a two-quarterback system against the Blue Devils (1-3). Junior backup Brian Hampton will see more playing time to give senior starter Lamar Owens a break so he doesn't suffer cramps, which have forced him to be sidelined during parts of the second half in the first two games.
"We will have to play it out and see what happens," Johnson said. "We've played two quarterbacks in every game; I don't know why we wouldn't in this one."
Navy's time off between football games is tied for the second-longest layoff in the modern era behind Tulsa, which had 22 days off between its first and second game of the 2001 season because of the widespread postponements and cancelations caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Navy's players are looking forward to finally playing in a real, live game in front of fans, not just the team's coaching staff.
"After each of our first two games were over, we tried to get it out of our system and get ready for our next game," said junior fullback Matt Hall. "You're always sour when you come off a loss and now we're going on our third week off. We want to get these losses out of our heads and the only way we can do that is by playing."
The postponement of Navy's game against Rice marked just the third time in 42 years a Midshipmen football game has been postponed or canceled. Navy's game against Army in 1963 was pushed back a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, also giving Navy three weeks between games. Navy's game against Northwestern in 2001 was cancelled after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
Navy's players have grown tired of thinking about opening the season 0-2, the team's worst start since 2001 when it finished 0-10.
The Midshipmen entered this season with the expectations of playing in a bowl game for the third consecutive season, and the team must win six games to be eligible to play in a bowl game. A loss to Duke would leave Navy little room for error the rest of the season, considering it still has to play at Notre Dame (3-1) -- a team that has defeated the Midshipmen an NCAA-record 41 consecutive times -- on Nov. 12 and Air Force (2-2), which comes to Annapolis for the first time since 1997 on Oct. 8.
"I think they understand how important the game against Duke is if they want to achieve their goals," Johnson said. "Duke is a very good football team, it's not like they offered any of our guys scholarships."
The Blue Devils lost at Virginia, 38-7, last Saturday, committing four turnovers. But the Midshipmen have allowed 37 second-half points in three-point losses to Maryland and Stanford.
"I think this is the biggest game of the year for us," said Hall, whose team beat Duke, 27-12, last season. "It's huge. I thought there was a big difference between 1-1 and 0-2, and there's an even bigger difference between 0-3 and 1-2."