Navy brings confidence, if not proof Mids plan to beat I-AA foe E. Illinois COLLEGE FOOTBALL


As Navy defensive back Grover Favors fielded one question after another about how a team with two wins in two seasons could possibly be confident going into a game, quarterback Jim Kubiak apparently had heard enough. Seated across the table, Kubiak put down his sandwich.

"We are not going to lose," said Kubiak, who then picked up his sandwich and continued to eat.

That type of attitude is what Navy (0-1) will carry onto the field tonight when it plays host to Eastern Illinois (1-1) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Coming off a season-opening 38-0 loss at Virginia, Navy is confident in its attempt to reach .500 for the first time in more than two seasons.

"We want to have a confident attitude -- we don't go into any game feeling like we're going to lose," Favors said. "We say we can't afford to lose this game, because it happens to be the next game we play. We'd feel the same way if we were playing Notre Dame."

This really is a game Navy can't afford to lose, if the team feels it has made big strides in the program. Eastern Illinois is a Division I-AA team and not exactly a powerhouse. Members of the Gateway Conference, the Panthers opened the season with a 34-17 win at Murray State. But in last week's 49-7 loss at McNeese State, the Panthers turned the ball over nine times -- seven of them interceptions of passes by senior quarterback Jeff Thorne.

"We're trying to recover from a pretty good beating," Eastern Illinois coach Bob Spoo said. "We're trying to do something to get some confidence back in our players."

From a historical standpoint, Navy is not exactly a favorite going into tonight's game. The Midshipmen have lost at least one game to a I-AA opponent for the past eight seasons and have a 6-8 record against such foes during that span. Navy's lone I-AA opponent last year was Delaware, which left Annapolis with a convincing 37-21 win.

"This is a totally different team," Favors said, when asked about comparisons to previous Navy teams. "This team can't be compared to any other. This is the new Navy. And we expect to win every game, especially this one."

To win, Navy will have to do a better job when inside an opponent's 10-yard line. The Midshipmen got there three times against Virginia and did not score.

"We didn't play very relaxed -- not as much as we would have liked," said Greg Briner, Navy's offensive coordinator. "This team is not used to being on the goal line against Virginia. It's a situation that's outside of the comfort zone, and it showed. What we want is for our kids to have confidence on the goal line against anybody."

* Navy will have to play without tailback Jason Van Matre, who sprained a knee last week. Van Matre was simply running when he hurt his knee, which did not respond to treatment this week. His status is on a game-by-game basis.

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