K.C. Ballard remembers receiving skeptical looks from restaurant employees when she asserted that her son Adam should receive the children's discount. She received the same glares when trying to buy a child's ticket for her then-10-year-old son or pleading that he didn't need a fishing license because he hadn't turned 12.
"I never kept his birth certificate in my purse, but maybe I should have because it would have made things easier," Ballard said. "The thing about Adam was even when he was 4 or 5, he was always big. I would tell people how old he was and then they'd look at him and think I wasn't being honest. He's always just been big for his age."
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Ballard will be hard to miss tomorrow afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where the Midshipmen (5-3) host Temple (0-10). He's expected to make his first career start at fullback after starter Matt Hall suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the first quarter in a 42-21 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday. Ballard replaced Hall and rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown on nine carries against the Fighting Irish, a performance that solidified his place in the starting lineup.
"Adam has ability and that's why I get after Adam a lot because I tend to get after guys that have more ability than some others," Navy Coach Paul Johnson said. "When I see Adam get arm tackled, I get excited because he's a big physical guy and nobody should tackle him with an arm."
Though fullbacks play a small role in many college offenses, Navy's triple-option scheme utilizes the fullback on almost every play. Hall, who was second on the team with 493 rushing yards and tied for the team lead with six touchdowns on 99 carries, had filled in admirably for the graduated Kyle Eckel, who rushed for 1,147 and 11 touchdowns last season.
"I don't think about feeling the pressure, but I know there are high expectations taking over for Matt," said Ballard, who has 180 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries. "I know I'm being counted on a lot. I need to focus on running hard and I shouldn't be tackled by the first guy who hits me."
Ballard should flourish against the Owls, who have allowed opponents to average 184.3 yards rushing, 457.5 yards of total offense and a whopping 46 points.
The Midshipmen are seeking their sixth victory, which would make them eligible to play in a bowl game for the third consecutive year. Though Navy also faces Army (3-6) on Dec. 3, the Academy wants to have their postseason plans set before the end of the month, Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said.
Gladchuk has been contacted by officials from five bowl games -- Liberty (Memphis on Dec. 31), Emerald (San Francisco, Dec. 29), Houston (Dec. 31), Motor City (Detroit, Dec. 26) and Poinsettia (San Diego, Dec. 22).
"The only thing I know for certain right now is once we get six wins, we'll be going to a bowl game, and it's just a matter of which one," Gladchuk said. "There's not one thing were looking for. We're looking at money, travel, date of the game, who the opponent will be, whether we have a significant amount of alumni in the area and if we can get the rest of our Midshipmen there. It's not just one box we're looking to check off; it's a whole package."
Though Gladchuk wouldn't say so, the first-year Poinsettia Bowl appears to be the favorite to land the Midshipmen, ahead of the Liberty Bowl. The Poinsettia Bowl, which pits a team from the Mountain West against an at-large team, is played in Qualcomm Stadium, across the San Diego Bay from Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, one of the largest Naval bases in the country, which likely would boost ticket sales considerably.
The Poinsettia Bowl pays each team approximately $750,000, and the Liberty Bowl, which pits the Conference USA champion against an at-large team, pays each team $1.5 million. But Steve Ehrhart, the Liberty Bowl's Executive Director, said he likely won't extend an invitation to fill the at-large slot until Dec. 3, which is also day the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and Conference USA hold championship games.
Ehrhart said the bowl committee is considering Navy, Texas Christian, Fresno State, Virginia and Maryland to face the winner of the Conference USA champion.