Charlie Weatherbie has always been the type of coach to stress positives over negatives. And the Navy football coach has remained true to form despite the Midshipmen's 1-3 start.
"I felt we learned a lot about this team from the West Virginia game Saturday before we gave it away with mistakes in the fourth quarter," he said. "It made the team believe we can beat anyone in the country, a West Virginia or a Notre Dame."
The Mids were tied 24-24 after three quarters before the Mountaineers recovered a fumble in the end zone and scored 21 straight points in the last quarter.
"I see the offense improving, especially in running the ball, and we're catching the ball a lot better," Weatherbie said. "We also did a good job of stopping the run last week, holding Amos Zereoue to 95 yards. But we definitely have to improve in defending the pass."
Statistics bear out the coach. Navy ranks second nationally in rushing (302.3) to Air Force (302.8), its 4-1 opponent in Colorado Springs on Saturday. But the Mids rank 104th in pass defense.
Weatherbie has tried all kinds of combinations to try to shore up his secondary and has sought more pressure up front by starting aggressive plebe Bwerani Nettles at defensive end.
Another major concern is the turnover ratio. Navy has committed 10 turnovers while forcing only five.
"We've got to be able to win the turnover battle, especially against a quality team like Air Force," said Weatherbie.
Weatherbie is still haunted by the way the Mids lost last year's game with the Falcons, 10-7, before a record crowd in Annapolis.
Air Force crossed midfield only once but scored the winning touchdown in the third quarter when special teams leader Tim Curry blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone.
Curry, a senior, blocked five punts and a field goal last year and has blocked another punt this season.
Pub Date: 10/07/98