Navy has taken on a handful to inaugurate its 1999 football season.
Up first for a team attempting to rebound from a 3-8 record is 10th-ranked Georgia Tech, which brings Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Hamilton, standout deep threat Dez White and four All-America hopefuls into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 12: 09 p.m. today.
It is a daunting task for the Midshipmen, who survived preseason practice without any major injuries and will probably need all the bodies they have to spring an upset of a team that finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and beat Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.
But Navy is welcoming the challenge from an opponent it has beaten three straight times, the latest a 36-26 victory in Atlanta three years ago when then-freshman Hamilton suffered two crucial fourth-quarter interceptions that clinched the outcome.
"This is the reason a lot of us came to school here, to play Division I powers," said Brian Broadwater, who will quarterback the Midshipmen from the start this year. "They have size and we expect them to have great speed and quickness."
"Your only chance for greatness is to play against great teams," said coach Charlie Weatherbie. "They've got some really good folks. We're excited about it."
Normally, Weatherbie likes to pull out the gimmicks for a game such as this. Last season's West Virginia game comes to mind -- when the Midshipmen tried some trick plays that weren't in the book. But he vows to play it straight this time.
"I think what you've got to do is depend upon your basic stuff and try to keep from beating yourself," Weatherbie said. "Our own worst enemy last year was ourself."
Navy will try to play ball control with its triple-option attack, and has a talented offensive line returning to give Broadwater and fullbacks Marlon Terrell and Raheem Lambert the chance to perform keep-away.
Conversely, the Yellow Jackets have extensive passing capability with Hamilton, the All-ACC quarterback who last year averaged 224 yards of total offense, and split end White, who had 46 receptions and led the team with 10 touchdowns.
Weatherbie compares Hamilton to former Navy quarterback Chris McCoy, but considers the Tech standout "a little more polished as a passer. I don't think you're going to stop him. We'll try to slow him down and keep him from having the big plays."
White is "a guy who can get behind you," the coach added. "We'll try to use a lot of different looks and formations against him."
This will be a stern test for the 3-4 Navy defense installed by new coordinator Tim DeRuyter, one that emphasizes speed and pursuit on the ball. Tech has only one new first-time starter on offense, flanker Kerry Watkins.
Yellow Jackets coach George O'Leary said Navy has been a difficult first foe to prepare for because the "wishbone and double slot is something you don't see very often. I think this is going to be very tough for us."
One minus for Georgia Tech could be the kicking game, which will feature a new punter and place-kicker. Navy could have the edge here with an outstanding punter in Tray Calisch and a seasoned placement man in Tim Shubzda.
Navy has dropped 27 consecutive games to ranked opponents since surprising 20th-ranked Virginia in Charlottesville on Sept. 10, 1985.
But the Midshipmen have not played the Yellow Jackets in Annapolis in 22 years.
"I think this will show us the type of team we are," Broadwater said. "This game will give us an indication what we have to do to achieve our goals."
Pub Date: 9/04/99