The Navy football team jabbed and sparred successfully yesterday, but when the time came to deliver a knockout, it was Boston College that had the big punch.
In a game eminently winnable for the Midshipmen, the Eagles marched 73 yards in six plays for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and took a gritty 14-10 decision before 34,052 sun-drenched fans at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"We had it when we needed it, and that's all that counts," BC coach Tom O'Brien said.
If, if, if.
That was the byword for Navy (1-2), which now turns to road games at Rice and West Virginia faced with the possibility of having to win one to enhance its chances for a winning record.
The Midshipmen played some of their most intense defense of the past two seasons, amassing four sacks, restricting the Eagles (2-0) to 98 yards rushing (after they rolled for 350 in their opener against Baylor) and capturing two turnovers.
"When you play as well as we did on defense, you should win the football game," Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie said.
"We were striving for perfection and slipped up twice," Navy defensive end Gino Marchetti said. "They got a little spark on the drive late in the game and sucked it up. We could see them breaking down before that; they were arguing among themselves. We thought we had them crushed."
But defense was the least of the Midshipmen's problems. Tim Shubzda missed two field-goal attempts, one a chip shot from 22 yards on the game's first drive, and the team sustained only one march to the end zone and went 1-for-13 on third-down conversions. Its offense churned out 337 yards but sputtered at vital times.
"We moved the ball but didn't make the plays when we needed to," quarterback Brian Broadwater said. "Inside the 20, we didn't execute. Altogether, it was a big disappointment."
The Midshipmen captured their lone lead of the game with a 12-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that ended with 9: 44 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even then, the end zone came grudgingly.
BC actually stuffed a reverse play that would have put Navy in a third-and-long situation from the Eagles' 20, but a late hit on George White gave Navy a first and goal from the 7. Broadwater rushed six yards on the first play before being stopped cold on the next two. He finally ran the option to the right and scored the touchdown on fourth down.
Behind 10-7, Boston College responded with the game-winning air assault. Tim Hasselbeck, whose father Don was a nine-year NFL veteran, passed for 23 yards to Carlton Rowe, 34 to Dedrick Dewalt and 13 more to Dewalt before Rowe scampered 6 yards off tackle to notch the touchdown.
"We started throwing the ball more on first and second down instead of pounding the run," O'Brien said. "We came with some play action out of a couple formations we had run the ball well out of. When we got down there, we had them on the run and were able to pound it in."
Navy had the ball twice more but didn't get beyond its own 42.
On the first series, Broadwater was slammed down for a seven-yard loss on fourth down by linebacker Frank Chamberlin, who paced the Eagles with 10 tackles. On the second -- with the clock expiring -- Navy couldn't complete a pass on fourth and 13.
"We had our chances to win the football game," Weatherbie said. "If we make two field goals instead of miss, if we go for two touchdowns instead of kicking field goals, if we stop them when it's 10-7... I was very disappointed in the loss."
Shubzda shanked the short field-goal try after Navy stalled at the BC 4 on its first possession, then the Eagles answered with the big play Navy seeks to prevent. To cap a short-lived 80-yard TD march, Hasselbeck hit wide receiver DuJuan Daniels behind the Navy secondary for a 64-yard strike to make it 7-0. It was the first touchdown for a converted defensive back.
Navy had to settle for Shubzda's field goal after bogging down at the Eagles' 6 on the next possession, and the 7-3 Eagles lead remained intact until 5: 16 had expired in the final period.
The result gave BC a 14-11 lead in the series and atoned for a shocking 32-31 loss to Navy last year in which the Eagles squandered a an 18-point lead.
"We punted way too many times [five] and didn't play as well offensively as we're capable," Weatherbie said. "Crucial situations got us in trouble on both sides of the ball. I'm very impressed with our effort. We stood up to them. We just didn't execute."
Next for Navy
Site: Rice Stadium, Houston
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Yesterday: Lost to Texas, 18-13