For Navy coach George Chaump and his staff, the benefit was a restful night's sleep. For the players, the reward was the support and encouragement from the brigade. For the program, it was the escape from the stigma of being the only winless team in Division I-A football.
That's what beating Tulane, 20-17, did for the Navy football team this past week. This afternoon, Navy (1-7) once again will seek out those perks of winning when it plays host to Vanderbilt (3-5) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
If Navy wins, it will mark the first time since 1981 that the Midshipmen have won back-to-back games against I-A competition in a season.
"We have a great sense of relief," Navy defensive back Grover Favors said of last week's win. "But we know what it took to [win], and we really have to get about the business of winning the next game."
That next game is against a Vanderbilt team that got off to a promising 2-1 start, defeating then-nationally ranked Mississippi in the process. But after that game, the Commodores lost four straight before ending that streak with a 20-7 win at Kentucky last week.
"We made some progress last week," said Vanderbilt coach Gerry DiNardo, who led the Commodores to a 5-6 record last year and was chosen Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. "But we're a long way from being where we want to be."
3 Running on 78 percent of its plays this season, Vanderbilt's offense is one-dimensional. Only one of the team's 18 touchdowns has come by a pass.
That would seem to play into the hands of Navy, which has had its only success the past two years against teams with one-dimensional offenses. Against Army last season, Navy took an early lead and never looked back in the 24-3 win against a wishbone team. The same was true in the 18-16 last-minute loss at Air Force, another team that ranked near the bottom nationally in passing offense.
For Navy to be successful, Chaump will have to get another steady performance from quarterback Jason Van Matre, who completed seven of 13 passes including two touchdowns, and rushed for 89 yards in last week's win over Tulane. Van Matre's passing success came on play-action plays in which the Tulane defense was caught keying on the option run.
"The best thing about our football team is that our quarterback is really, really improving each game," Chaump said. "I wish we were just starting the season right now with Jason Van Matre where he is right now. I think we'd be a good football team."
Chaump said the win last week enabled him to rest a bit easier and boosted his team's confidence, but he is still leery of how the players will come out this afternoon. After the Air Force game -- which should have been a Navy win -- the Midshipmen were embarrassed in their next game by Delaware, 37-21.
"I'm going to be real interested to see their response after a win," Chaump said. "I think the caliber of the opponent will have a lot to do with how they come out. And Vanderbilt is a good football team."