The first game was supposed to provide a barometer as to how Navy's 1999 football season would unfold, and, if yesterday is any indication, the weather is mostly cloudy.
Tenth-ranked Georgia Tech dominated the Midshipmen with its star-laden offense and rolled to a 49-14 victory before 30,311, the biggest opening-game crowd in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium history.
For the most part, Navy's newly installed 3-4 defense accomplished its mission to not surrender the big plays, but the Yellow Jackets picked it apart by controlling the mid-range, amassing nearly 500 yards of total offense.
For Georgia Tech, it was a suitable test for next week's showdown against Atlantic Coast Conference superpower Florida State; for Navy, it was clear evidence that it is not ready to engage the nation's powerhouses.
After a 77-yard touchdown drive on their first possession, the Midshipmen could not sustain their attack to keep Tech All-American quarterback Joe Hamilton and outstanding wide receiver Dez White off the field long enough.
A lesser-known weapon, running back Phillip Rogers, scored a career-high three times on short plunges for the Yellow Jackets, who won their sixth straight and accumulated their highest number of points in a road game since 1913 (Chattanooga, 71).
"They are definitely a Top 10 team, but I'm not sure they're 35 points better than we are," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "I believe we were our own worst enemy a lot of times today. Missed tackles, missed blocks and not converting in situations.
"Our whole plan was to keep the defense off the field and drive the football, use ball control. We didn't do that offensively."
Navy succeeded on just five of 15 third- and fourth-down plays, and averaged just more than four yards per rush.
"We came out with fire in our eyes and drove right down the field," said quarterback Brian Broadwater. "It showed us we could move the ball on them. I'm not saying we were lackadaisical after that but we should have stayed aggressive and intense.
"We had three drives of three [plays] and out. You can't do that against against a team like Georgia Tech."
By the time the Midshipmen threatened again, Georgia Tech had a 28-7 cushion. And after Tim Shubzda's field-goal attempt early in the third quarter hit an upright and bounced away, the Yellow Jackets answered by marching 75 yards in less than three minutes for their fifth touchdown to build a 28-point lead.
Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary watched the proceedings from the press box after being suspended from the field for one game by the NCAA. He liked what he saw from above.
"All in all, I had a better view than most of the people on the sideline," said O'Leary. "I stood the whole game and stayed in constant contact and I thought the assistant coaches did a great job."
Rogers finished with 80 yards rushing, stealing some of the thunder from Hamilton and White, who were efficient but not dominating.
"We were going to attack them just as they were going to attack our defense," said Rogers. "We've always been a hard-running team. Dez and Joe are big distractions, and the run and the pass work together."
Weatherbie said Navy did a decent job of preventing the bomb. "We were bending but not breaking," he said. "We made them go the long, hard way, but we've got to make some plays in there before they get to the end zone. They made the plays and we didn't."
Navy slotback Dre Britting- ham, who scored his first career touchdown, said, "Sure, we're disappointed, but we've got 11 games left. This was a pretty good measuring stick and we felt we'd be able to compete a little better than we did."
The defeat was the 28th straight for the Midshipmen against a ranked opponent.
O'Leary appreciated the opportunity to get a lot of his players in the game before the showdown with the No. 1 Seminoles.
"We were able to work on a lot of our depth," said Hamilton. "Let's go out and have a good week of practice and see what happens."
Georgia Tech 14, 14, 7 ,14 -- 49
Navy 7, 0 ,7 ,0 -- 14
GT -- Rogers 1 run (Cornwell kick), 10: 29.
N -- Brittingham 4 run (Shubzda kick), 7: 42.
GT -- Hamilton 10 run (Manget kick), : 16.
GT -- Watkins 6 pass from Hamilton (Cornwell kick), 10: 31.
GT -- Rogers 1 run (Manget kick), : 53.
GT -- Rogers 2 run (Manget kick), 6: 30.
N -- Broadwater 1 run (Shubzda kick), 1: 57.
GT -- Burns 40 pass from Hamilton (Cornwell kick), 12: 24.
GT -- Gregory 26 run (Manget kick), 8: 38. A -- 30,311.
First downs 27 18
Rushes-yards 61-341 47-192
Passing 146 133
Return Yards 87 74
Comp-Att-Int 13-19-0 9-18-0
Punts 2-44.5 5-37
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 6-55 3-30
Time of Possession 29: 14 30: 46
Rushing -- Georgia Tech, Rogers 16-80, Wilder 6-66, Burns 8-47, Hamilton 11-39, Gregory 4-38, Clinkscale 10-35, Godsey 2-14, Matvay 2-9, Watkins 1-7, White 1-6. Navy, Lambert 13-92, Broadwater 25-47, Brittingham 5-32, Vereen 2-19, Terrell 1-4, Holley 1-(minus 2).
Passing -- Georgia Tech, Hamilton 12-17-0-139, Godsey 1-2-0-7. Navy, Broadwater 9-18-0-133.
Receiving -- Georgia Tech, Burns 4-69, White 4-47, Watkins 2-16, Campbell 2-13, P.Rogers 1-1. Navy, O'Donnell 4-70, Vereen 2-23, Brittingham 1-17, Fay 1-17, Williams 1-6.
Next for Navy
Site: Dix Stadium, Kent, Ohio
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Yesterday: Lost to Cincinnati, 41-3