Thirty Naval Academy seniors will perform for the last time tomorrow on a Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium field that hasn't exactly been home, sweet home.
And nobody -- not the head coach nor the players -- can pinpoint the reason the Midshipmen have not won in their own house since Oct. 17, 1998, when Division I-AA Colgate was a 42-35 victim, or beaten a Division I-A opponent since Sept. 19 of last year when Navy overcame a Kent team about to launch the nation's longest losing streak.
Home cooking has left Navy starving for a win in Annapolis.
"Any time you lose at home, it's 100-fold worse," said senior defensive end Gino Marchetti. "It's more embarrassing, and there should be no excuses because you're familiar with everything. If you lose, all those positive things turn into negatives."
"This season has been particularly tough because we lost to teams we thought we should have beaten," said senior co-captain Terrence Anderson. "Even at Jack Kent Cooke [now Redskins Stadium] we lost to Air Force when we were the home team."
When Navy meets Tulane tomorrow, it will be an emotional day for the seniors.
"I thought about that last week," said Jamie Doffermyer, the other senior co-captain. "It's kind of a shock that the end has come so fast. It's hard to think of this being the last game for us in Annapolis, particularly for me [a graduate of nearby Arundel High]."
The most advanced theory for Navy's home-field problems is the caliber of the opposition. While the Midshipmen have won three times on the road and could have beaten both Notre Dame and Rice away from home, they have suffered narrow defeats in Maryland to Boston College, Air Force and Akron and absorbed a first-game beating from nationally ranked Georgia Tech.
"All those teams we've lost to here have won six or more times," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "I think it has to do with who you're playing. You should have a home-field advantage and people should yell and scream, but we haven't had one. That's basically all I can say."
Fans have been coming to Navy-Marine Corps in record numbers this year, so it isn't lack of attention. The routine for the players is almost the same at home as on the road (they spend game eve at a local hotel) and, on paper beforehand, the home-road schedule looked about equally difficult.
"We get away from school a little earlier for away games and that helps us on the road," said Anderson. "When you're getting away earlier, it's a business trip and a plane ride. It's a release. At home, your folks are coming and there's more activity."
Everyone on the roster will be on a mission tomorrow. The seniors want to present the brigade and their fans a game to remember them by. The underclassmen will be striving to send the seniors off with a flourish.
"We want to send the seniors out on a good note. We'll come out and play hard because of that," said junior linebacker Mike McGee.
"I remember from my freshman and sophomore years, we were always winning at home," said Anderson. "It's a little bit discouraging what has happened this year, but we're going to get this one. The fans and brigade deserve it."
Doffermyer said, "Losing hurts anywhere. If you're on the road, you have to travel back. Here, you're in front of your supporters and people are looking at you while the song's coming on [the post-game playing of the alma mater]. It's tough standing there after you lose."
Offensive guard Scott Swanter reasoned that it might help if portions of the brigade understood football more.
"I believe in the 12th man and the fans getting excited," he said. "That has a lot to do with the tempo of the game. Some members of the brigade understand when to cheer, but some don't."
Weatherbie thinks that the seniors' final opportunity for a home win will be incentive enough.
"I think you'll see a bunch of guys expending everything," he said. "How they want to be remembered is how they'll play."
Said Marchetti: "Everybody deserves to go out with a bang."
Lost at home
Navy has lost five straight at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since Oct. 17, 1998, when it defeated Colgate, 42-35:
Date Opponent Result
11-7-98 Rutgers L 36-33
11-21-98 SMU L 24-11
9-4-99 Georgia Tech L 49-14
9-18-99 Boston College L 14-10
10-23-99 Akron L 35-29