It was a lengthy wait, but Navy coach George Chaump finally made his way to the interview room after his team's 30-20 loss to Army in Philadelphia on Saturday. Once seated, he was quick to the point.
"What an end to a very frustrating day," Chaump said.
And the end of a frustrating season for Chaump, who is not accustomed to losing. The loss ended Navy's season at 5-6, marking the first time Chaump has experienced a losing season since his first of eight years as a head coach -- 4-6 at Indiana (Pa.) University in 1982.
"You really want to do better your first year," Chaump said yesterday. "We wanted to win, and we're disappointed."
The season was one of peaks and valleys for the Midshipmen, who showcased Chaump's pro-set offense in impressive fashion in a season-opening, 28-17 victory over Richmond.
That 11-point win was about as good as it got. The team never proved it could put anyone away, with victories over Villanova, Akron, Toledo and Delaware coming by a total of 14 points. And Navy was embarrassed on homecoming for the second year in a row by James Madison, this time by 16-7.
But Chaump said he was encouraged by how the team responded after the James Madison loss. A 52-31 loss to Notre Dame was not really that lopsided. The Midshipmen came from 10 points down to beat a good Toledo team on the road, and the next game they scored a touchdown at the end of the game to beat Delaware.
And although the Army game got away, the overall effort for the year was a big improvement -- and the product more exciting -- than last year's 3-8 team.
"The biggest accomplishment was creating a new spirit and attitude," Chaump said. "We've made a big advancement here about our overall feeling about football."
Chaump will face a void at quarterback with the graduation of Alton Grizzard, the school's all-time offensive leader (5,666 yards). Sophomore Brian Ellis, who never threw a pass, and plebe Jason Van Matre, who played only at running back, probably will compete for that spot in the spring.
"Van Matre will be a quarterback in the spring, and a darn good quarterback," Chaump said.
The backfield appears to be solid, with the return of sophomore Ivan Bullard and plebe Brad Stramanak. Bullard showed signs of his ability in an injury-filled season, and Stramanak displayed powerful, straight-ahead running.
"I'm really encouraged by what we have coming back," Chaump said. "I know we have a good thing going."