Mids gear up for 2nd half after a welcome week off; Weatherbie is optimistic team can reverse its fortune; Navy notebook


Now 2-4 and separated from a 5-1 record by less than two touchdowns, Navy's football team will use a bye this week to heal its nicks and its psyche.

"This came at a good time," said coach Charlie Weatherbie. "We look at it as starting a brand new season. I believe we still have an opportunity to have a heck of a year and the ability and talent to win out over all these close losses."

Navy's latest heart-breaker was a 19-14 defeat to rival Air Force at Redskins Stadium in which an inability to score more than seven first-half points, a missed field-goal attempt in the third quarter and an incomplete pass on the final play from the Falcons' 7 combined to undermine an upset bid.

Next up is the Oct. 23 homecoming game for the Midshipmen against an Akron team that is 4-2 and is favored against Bowling Green this weekend.

"This gives us time to think about the next game," said sophomore receiver Brandon Rampani, who had a 54-yard touchdown catch against Air Force. "We still have a chance to be 8-4, which is a great season [after a 3-8 record last year]. Things are still looking good for Navy."

Weatherbie already is taking a cautious approach to the Zips.

"Akron beat Temple, which beat Boston College, which beat us," he said. "That shows you what they're capable of doing."

Weatherbie was reminded that one of his Utah State teams was 1-5 before rallying to get a bowl berth.

"To me, it's all about believing in what you're doing and having faith in one another," he said. "The answer is not in changing anything; it is in getting better at what you're doing."

Mixed results for Shubzda

Field-goal kicker Tim Shubzda embodies the fate that has befallen the team as a whole.

He had a glorious moment with a 49-yard field goal against Rice (third-longest in school history), but also a series of setbacks.

Three of his attempts have bounced backward off uprights, including one against Air Force that, had it been good, would have left Navy needing only a field goal on its final drive.

"He is one of the most normal kickers I've ever been around," said Weatherbie, alluding to the sometimes non-conforming nature of kickers. "He is a total athlete who probably could play defensive back or linebacker for us.

"It hurts him a lot that he has missed some."

Overall, Shubzda, 6 feet 1 and 195 pounds, is 5-for-11 in field-goal attempts with one blocked, but he has made only one beyond 30 yards.

Rampani catching on

Weatherbie believes Rampani, a sophomore from San Antonio, has "a chance to be a fine go-to guy. He has caught more touchdown passes [two to none] than any of our other receivers."

With Brian Broadwater at quarterback full time and deep threat Ryan Read having transferred from the academy, the emphasis is now on short and medium-range passing.

"Ryan did the deep ball a lot," said Rampani. "But I think you'll see a lot more emphasis on medium range. I definitely think the passing game will be a factor the rest of the way."

In six games, Broadwater is 44-for-91 for 623 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Navy is averaging only one turnover per game.

Expected back for the Akron game is sophomore receiver Harry Spencer, who has not played yet because of a broken bone in his lower back. His return also should buoy the passing attack.

Et cetera

The Midshipmen retained their high national ranking (fourth) in rushing offense. At 282 yards a game, they are 54 yards behind top-ranked Army. Safety Chris Lepore was in on a team-high 15 tackles against Air Force, increasing his squad-leading total to 83. Linebacker Ryan Hamilton is a distant second at 57. The improving defense already has matched its 14 sacks of last season with Gino Marchetti leading the way with five. Marchetti also has matched his 37 tackles of 1998.

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