A Winning--But Uneasy--Consistency

Navy's football team has surely proven to be consistent through the first two games of the 2004 season.

Twice, the Midshipmen have stared down first-half deficits.

Twice, they dug themselves a hole because of turnovers.

Twice, they got a clutch touchdown late in the first half to narrow a deficit and steer momentum in their direction.

Twice, the boys in Annapolis got quick touchdowns to start the second half and consolidate the momentum built late in the first half.

Twice, a stout defense anchored the Naval Academy in the fourth quarter, closing the door on a victory.

As you can see, some of these things are good, some not so good. Overall, the fragility of the month of September in college football--a time when favorites get ambushed and picked off--makes these close shaves unquestionably positive results for Navy, even though the Midshipmen have not yet punished and pulverized people the way they often did in 2003. But just as much as these first two games can be filed in the "W" column, future games will be a "L" if the first half fizzles suffered by Aaron Polanco, Kyle Eckel and Co. continue to dog Navy's offense.

And with the 28-24 win over Northeastern now in the history books, a look ahead to week three bears mentioning. While the poor folks in the state of Florida have had to put up with three hurricanes in little more than a month, the Naval Academy football team is about to run into a Hurricane of its own--a Golden Hurricane in Tulsa that surprisingly pushed a powerful Oklahoma State club for a lot longer than anyone expected, before faltering down the stretch in a 38-21 loss. Given the apparent physicality possessed by Tulsa's first string--for Oklahoma State possesses some of the best frontline muscle in America--Navy will have to flawlessly execute the triple option and weed out special teams turnovers if a win is to be expected on the Oklahoma plains next weekend.

All the miscues that Navy has been able to dodge in these first two home games against scrappy but not overly talented teams will bite the Midshipmen in the backside against Tulsa. Moreover, as Paul Johnson will surely remind his charges just before kickoff, the Golden Hurricane will likely be brimming with confidence after fighting so competitively against a college football big boy such as Oklahoma State, which found itself playing Eli Manning and Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl last season. If Navy gets Tulsa's best game--and that's the way teams always have to prepare--the only way the Midshipmen will win is if they bring theirs.

So these first two tests weren't spectacular, but they were successful enough, as Navy football is 2-0 for the first time since 1996. However, the comforts of home will now disappear, as these Navy boys go to the parched Central Plains to tussle with Tulsa. It will be in this Oklahoma town where we'll truly begin to get a fuller measure of this Navy football team. The challenge for Aaron Polanco and the boys is to elevate their game in a season of elevated expectations.

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