The rebuilding program for the Navy football team, under new coach Charlie Weatherbie, suffered a major setback in its home opener last night as the Midshipmen committed six turnovers in the second half and bowed to previously winless Wake Forest, 30-7.
Navy, now 1-2 after opening with an impressive 33-2 victory over Southern Methodist, repeatedly self-destructed before 25,380 in Annapolis, spurring reminders of the frustration the Mids have suffered the past 12 seasons.
Sophomore quarterback Chris McCoy, who caught the attention of the nation by rushing for 273 yards in his varsity debut, was frustrated in his first appearance at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The Georgia native threw three interceptions and fumbled in the second half when the Demon Deacons took control after leading 14-7 at halftime.
McCoy was replaced in the fourth quarter by Ben Fay, a junior. Fay completed his first three passes before throwing an interception, and McCoy finished out.
"I don't care if you're Nebraska or Florida State, any time you give the ball up that many times, and give up so many big plays on the defensive side, you have no chance of winning," Weatherbie said.
The Navy defense was burned time and again by the resourceful play-calling of junior quarterback Rusty LaRue, who executed drives of 99, 71 and 73 yards for his team's first three touchdowns, as the Deacons improved to 1-3.
LaRue, who also letters in basketball and baseball, was especially effective in producing big plays on third-down situations. In fact, 222 of Wake Forest's 340 net yards resulted from making good on nine of 18 third-down plays.
The crowd got a sense of what was to come on Navy's opening offensive drive. The Mids used an innovative stacked formation to quickly move the ball to the Deacons' 5-yard line, but four straight running plays left them inches short of the goal line.
"I thought I scored on third down, but we didn't get the call," McCoy said.
Weatherbie was more pragmatic. "We should have got the ball in the end zone on that first drive," he said. "For us to win, we've got to be able to run the ball, but our line just wasn't getting off the ball."
The Deacons quickly capitalized. Faced with third-and-10 from the 1, LaRue escaped with a 39-yard pass to Marlon Estes, who had six receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Another third-down pass by LaRue to Darrell Braswell produced a 49-yard gain to the Navy 3, from where John Lewis scored the first of his three touchdowns.
Weatherbie put the game in perspective:
"When we lost to Rutgers last week, we gave up a couple of big plays," the coach said. "Tonight, we gave up at least 10."
Wake Forest 6 8 0 16 -- 30
Navy .. ... 0 7 0 0 -- 7
WF -- J. Lewis 3 run (pass failed)
N -- Schemm 33 pass from McCoy (Covarrubias Kick)
WF -- J. Lewis 1 run (Estes Pass from LaRue)
WF -- J. Lewis 9 run (Hollows Kick)
WF -- Estes 28 pass from LaRue (kick blocked)
WF -- FG Hollows 27
A -- 25,380
Next for Navy
Site: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Yesterday: Lost, 41-28, to Maryland