Three games into the season Navy coach Paul Johnson is still looking for his team to play sound, basic football.
Though the Midshipmen rushed for 521 yards, the third most in school history, they lost in overtime Saturday night to Ball State, 34-31, after what should have been a an easy 32-yard Navy field goal attempt with two seconds left in regulation was blocked.
The 521 rushing yards also were the third most by a losing team in NCAA history. Rice rushed for 570 yards in a 70-63 loss to San Jose State on Oct. 2, 2004, and Air Force rushed for 545 yards Nov. 24, 2001, in a 50-32 loss to Hawaii.
Navy (1-2) had two field-goal attempts blocked and fumbled twice in key situations, in the overtime and earlier at the Ball State 15-yard line when the Mids were driving for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. Still, Johnson said the problems on the defense are worse, with players not lining up in their correct positions and not knowing their assignments.
"What's upsetting to me is that as poorly as we played, we still could have won if we had made a chip-shot field goal. Make that and the game's over," Johnson said yesterday. "Instead we, for some reason, kick a head-high ball into the opposing team. We have to evaluate that. It's the second time that's happened. We did the same thing in overtime last year to lose a game."
Place-kicker Matt Harmon kicked both those balls, and one earlier in the Ball State game that also was blocked. "We have to see where we stand there," Johnson said. "If Matt is the best at the position, he'll continue to kick, but it's only fair to give other guys a shot."
The team also lost starting quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who sprained both ankles on one play when he was sacked with 38 seconds left in the first half. Johnson said Kaheaku-Enhada is expected to be able to practice today.
Backup Jarod Bryant did several positive things, leading the team on two scoring drives and almost to a win. But the play that stood out most was the fumbled pitch to Shun White in overtime that Ball State recovered.
"We're not playing fundamentally sound football," Johnson said. "Our mistakes are unforced. We've got to keep working on the same things. We've got to stop beating ourselves."