Round 1 of the sack war takes place on Sept. 2 when Navy opens the season against East Carolina. The sacks could pile up early as East Carolina's James Pinckney is one the most frequently sacked quarterbacks in the country. "A little competition is good," Mahoney says. "It should be a lot of fun. Tyler has made me a better player, so I'm looking forward to this."
Of course, Mahoney and Tidwell, both seniors, are putting team goals ahead of their friendly bet. But the whole sack thing has been a source of motivation since Navy coaches began playfully encouraging the pair to compete midway through last year.
Tidwell won the sack contest last year, although a steak dinner didn't exchange hands. He led the team with 10 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. For good measure, Tidwell, who is 6-foot-2, 224 pounds, was named defensive MVP of the Poinsettia Bowl, recording 10 tackles and three sacks.
Mahoney, who is 5-foot-9, 219 pounds, didn't have a bad year himself. He finished third on the team with 76 tackles and and second with eight sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. "A large part of our success is because of the defensive line," Tidwell says. "They open up a lot of slots for us to get sacks. A lot of times they take out the offensive lineman for us." Tidwell and Mahoney have big plans for Navy's defense, which often plays in the shadow of the offense and the electric triple option, this fall.
"I want to be in the top 25 in every defensive category," Mahoney says. "I'm very proud of this defense and we feel good with the progress we have made."
Added Tidwell: "We're all going to do a good job this year. We are all pretty hungry."