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To Navy's chagrin, an old look resurfaces

While winning two of its first three games and creating some buzz about a turnaround after years of futility, Navy had done so many things right.

Then came Saturday's 48-27 loss at Rutgers, where the Midshipmen brought back a host of bad memories befitting a program aiming for only its third winning season since 1982.

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Navy (2-2) entered the contest leading the NCAA in turnover margin, then committed a season-high three miscues, each of them a lost fumble.

Its defense came into New Jersey ranked eighth in the nation in average points allowed, and against a bigger, faster Rutgers offense, missed too many tackles, yielded too many long running plays and stopped the Scarlet Knights only three times on 13 third-down attempts.

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By night's end, the Midshipmen had allowed more points than in their previous three efforts combined, and had surrendered 249 rushing yards

Navy's triple-option offense did what it does best by running the ball and breaking off big plays - particularly by junior slotback Eric Roberts - while producing a season-high 373 rushing yards. But the Midshipmen came away with no points after successive trips deep into the red zone in the middle of the game.

Don't get coach Paul Johnson started on the special teams, which had two field goals and an extra point blocked. The field-goal disasters were killers. On the first miss, which came after a false start at the Rutgers 2 damaged a drive at the end of the first half, Geoff Blumenfeld kicked too low on a 22-yard attempt, preserving Rutgers' 21-14 halftime lead.

On the second, which ended a 74-yard drive on a sour note to start the second half, the Scarlet Knights took advantage of an assignment breakdown to block a 23-yard attempt, and Rutgers' Brandon Haw caught the bouncing ball in stride and ran 88 yards for a touchdown.

"It's disappointing, because we had our chances," Johnson said. "[Rutgers] was physical and they were fast, and we never had the ball in the first half. What happened at the end of the first half just killed us. You can't miss a ton of tackles and make a bunch of mistakes and expect to win. That's a game we could have won."

The best things Navy can say about its rough night is it still managed to cut the Rutgers lead to 28-21 late in the third quarter after a 14-play, 80-yard drive, and that Roberts has arrived as an offensive force.

Roberts rushed for a career-high 125 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, caught two passes for 70 yards and another score, and was pretty much untouchable each time he had the ball. He touched it seven times in the first half - when Navy had the ball for just 9:53 - and still produced 146 yards and two touchdowns.

"We did some good things, but they were outweighed by the bad," Roberts said.

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Johnson said he questioned the Midshipmen's focus after the way they practiced late last week. After Saturday's spanking, and with rival Air Force up next on Saturday, he expects that should not be a concern.

"This is as big a game as you could have. I would hope they will be very focused. We'll see," he said.


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