What a difference for Navy

What a difference a few weeks make. It is Tuesday, October 24th and THE week is finally here. It's time for Navy to take on THAT ranked opponent – a team that has had its number for quite awhile. You have to admit that at the beginning of the year, Navy fans circled this adversary, saying, "If we could only beat ONE team this year, please, oh please, let it be THIS one."

A win over this national powerhouse would catapult our team to the next level. A win over this team, and who knows what it could mean… A national ranking? Sure. A trip to the big show? Perhaps. Instant respectability? You bet. The game even has a certain Navy coach uttering familiar game-week phrases like, "They (our opponent) are a quality team and have been for many years. We need to play well. We can't let them blow us out. We'll have to see how things go."

So with that I say, "Bring on Penn State!" Huh? You say. You thought I was talking about…oh, now you get it. What a difference a few weeks make. That quote in the previous paragraph was not spoken by Navy football coach Paul Johnson. It was given by Navy women soccer coach Carin Gabarra. In a week, when all Navy fans thought the talk would be about the football team heading up to Baltimore to take on Notre Dame, the women's soccer team has managed to steal the spotlight – well, sort of. Well, kind of. It is still Notre Dame Week on the Yard, but for one day, this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in Annapolis; it should be Penn State Week…or Penn State Day at least.

Let's face the facts, CBS is not sending a crew to the Naval Academy on Thursday to cover this game, but perhaps its CSTV component should. In the biggest game in the history of the women's soccer program, #14 Navy (18-0) will battle #10 Penn State (12-3-3). Sure, the 1-0 loss to North Carolina in 2003, which attracted a record-setting crowd, was a great game, but this one could be better, and hopefully, it will have a better outcome for the Midshipmen. A win should propel Navy into the top ten in the rankings and ensure them of an invitation to the NCAA tournament, regardless of the outcome of the Patriot League tournament.

In addition to breaking the school record for wins (previously 17), the Mids have also tied the school record for shutouts (15), while outscoring their opponents 65-3 this fall - including 20-0 in Patriot League play. So I say how about some love this week for the other big game?

Now loyal readers know that I don't intend to take anything away from the football team. I mean, let's face it, if they put an end to a certain streak this Saturday, there isn't anyone in Annapolis on Sunday who is going to be talking about what happened at Glenn Warner Stadium a few days earlier – and rightfully so. Unfortunately, when Brian Hampton dislocated his knee on the first offensive series against Rutgers on Homecoming, Navy's hopes of beating Notre Dame were somewhat fractured as well. It seems that there is a lot of love in the world for Rutgers these days, but I'd still like to see what a Hampton-led Navy offense could have done against the Scarlet Knights for four quarters. There is no doubt in my mind that with Hampton, Navy scores on Rutgers at least once in the first half…maybe twice. And with the defense limiting Rutgers to only 10 points in the first half…it is conceivable that the Mids could have led at the break. Get the ball after the intermission with Hampton behind center, and you just don't know what could have been. Navy may have lost, but the score would have been much more respectable…probably something like 24-21 respectable.

With a healthy Hampton, Navy would have been a 7-point underdog this week and there would have been some reason to be optimistic that the Mids could put a scare into the Irish…and maybe, just maybe, end the streak. Without Hampton, Navy is a 14-point underdog and starting a sophomore at quarterback against the #10 team in country on national television. But there is some hope. Notre Dame did expend a lot of energy in beating a mediocre UCLA team at home this past Saturday. If they had lost to UCLA, I'm sure they would have taken their frustration out on their next opponent. Also in the ‘hope' column is the fact that Paul Johnson has had two weeks to think about how to get the ball into Reggie Campbell's hands about twenty times. Make no mistake it is going to take a Poinsettia Bowl-type performance by Campbell to give the Mids a shot. But there is hope. All I am saying is that before the Hampton injury there was hope AND a fair amount of anticipation for Notre Dame Week.

So here we are now, a week and a few days later, and I'm leading my story with women's soccer and not on how to stop Brady Quinn and Darius Walker. Not that I would presume to know how to do that exactly, but like I said, what a difference a few weeks make.


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