ANNAPOLIS, Md.-Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk announced Friday that Navy has accepted an invitation to play in the EV1.net Houston Bowl against an opponent yet to be determined from the Big 12. The game will be played on Dec. 30 at Reliant Stadium in Houston and televised by ESPN.
Reliant Stadium in Houston, home of the EV1.net Houston Bowl, shown here with the retractable roof open (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
"Bringing our football team to the best host city in America is as good as it gets. Houston is a spectacular city for big time events," said Gladchuk. "I am certain those affiliated with Navy who visit for this prestigious bowl game will be immeasurably impressed with what Jerry Ippoliti and his bowl committee have created. I believe Navy fans will turn out by the thousands to enjoy the city's enthusiastic hospitality, while cheering on the best football team we've fielded in many years. The Navy, Marines, our alumni and fans are preparing to "invade" Houston with a winning spirit and a sincere sense of appreciation for being selected."
"This is exciting news for our football program. I couldn't be happier for our players and coaching staff in getting this opportunity," said head football coach Paul Johnson. "These young men have earned this through their dedication in the weight room and on the practice field starting last winter and their unwavering faith that we would turn this program around. When we started the year, one of our goals was to make it to a bowl game and now that has been accomplished. We still have one major goal left and that is to beat Army and win the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy on Dec. 6."
"We are pleased and excited to have one of our national military academies accept a bid to the EV1.net Houston Bowl," said Jerry Ippoliti, President and CEO of the EV1.net Houston Bowl. "Navy football brings to our bowl a nation-leading rushing team, a coach of the year candidate in Paul Johnson and the likely winner of the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy."
The 2003 season has already been a season to remember for the Midshipmen as Navy has posted a 7-4 record heading into the Dec. 6 contest against West Point. A victory over the Black Knights would give the Mids eight wins and the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, which is presented annually to the winner of football competition among the three major service academies and is named in honor of the President of the United States.
Navy possesses one of the most potent offenses in the country, leading the nation in rushing (323.09), and is 24th in total offense (433 yards per game) and 28th in scoring offense (31.6 points per contest).
The Mids have set school records for rushing yards (3,554 yards), average yards per rush (5.5), average rushing yards per game (323.1), rushing touchdowns (38), total offense (4,763 yards), average yards per game (433 yards per contest) and yards per play (6.2). The Mids are also just the second team in NCAA history to have four 1,000-yard career rushers on the same team.
Quarterback Craig Candeto and fullback Kyle Eckel lead the offense. Candeto has rushed for 964 yards and 14 touchdowns, while throwing for 1,052 yards and seven touchdowns. Eckel has rushed for 1,026 yards and eight touchdowns.
Although the offense gets most of the glory, the defense deserves its share of credit for Navy's turnaround, as well. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green's units one of the most improved in the country, led by the nation's fourth-ranked pass defense (157.4 yards per game). The Mids are 31st in the nation in total defense (347.91) and 41st in scoring defense (21.73).
The defense is led by outside linebacker Eddie Carthan and safety Josh Smith. Carthan has recorded 64 tackles on the year and leads the Mids in tackles for a loss (11.5), sacks (5) and interceptions (4). Smith leads the team in tackles with 95, has picked off three passes and has recovered two fumbles.
This will be Navy's 10th bowl game appearance and the Mids have posted a record of 4-4-1. Navy's last appearance in a bowl game was a memorable one as Navy rallied for 14 fourth-quarter points to upset California, 42-38, in the 1996 Jeep Eagle Aloha Bowl.
This is the fourth year for a bowl game in Houston. It was called the galleryfurniture.com bowl in 2000 and 2001 and the Houston Bowl in 2002. Last year, Oklahoma State defeated Southern Miss, 33-23. Reliant Stadium, the home of the EV1.net Houston Bowl, is also home of the Houston Texas and is the site of the 2004 Super Bowl.
Ticket information will be released Monday, but tickets will be available at the Naval Academy Ticket Office in Ricketts Hall or by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY.