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October 31, 2007

Navy looks to finally end epic losing streak

Methuselah died. That Biblical event proved even the longest streaks including those that last 969 years eventually end some time.

With that in mind, the Midshipmen of Navy can be optimistic about ending a streak of futility against Notre Dame that only seems as long as Methuselah's lifetime.

After all, this appears to be the season for many dubious college football streaks to die. For example, Oklahoma State won at Nebraska for the first time in 47 years, and Vanderbilt beat a Steve Spurrier coached-team (South Carolina) for the first time.

Navy hasn't beaten Notre Dame since a Middies team quarterbacked by Roger Staubach prevailed 35-14 in 1963.

If the Midshipmen are to end that streak, this would seem to be the season, given Notre Dame's many problems.

"Every year, we'd like to say we have a great chance of beating Notre Dame," Navy junior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada said. "Anything can happen on any given Saturday. As a team, we just want to try to compete."

But this year's game in South Bend should be more competitive than usual. Normally, a Navy victory over Notre Dame would be an upset of near-Biblical proportions. Yet, the Middies actually have a few more things than a current trend going in their favor this year.

Notre Dame (1-7) allows 191.8 rushing yards per game to rank 94th nationally in that category. Meanwhile, Navy (4-4) leads the nation in rushing offense at 342.8 yards per game. While Navy is vulnerable to the pass I-AA Delaware threw for 434 yards in beating the Middies last week Notre Dame's passing offense is one of the nation's most anemic.

Those factors would seem to point to a possible victory and might create a frenzied atmosphere on many campuses around the country. On a week like this, academics might take a back seat to pre-game buildup and star players of yore like Staubach, who engineered Navy's victory in '63 en route to winning the Heisman Trophy might be phoning to offer encouragement.

Not in Annapolis.

"I haven't heard from Roger Staubach personally. He hasn't given me a call yet," said Kaheaku-Enhada, who suggested he might not have time to take the call anyway. "For us, honestly, this week is our midterm exams, so academics are a pretty high priority. After the tests, we'll really focus on Notre Dame."

What's this? Navy has its best chance to beat Notre Dame in 44 years, and its quarterback is more focused on World Civilization, Electrical Engineering and Modern Physics? Don't they understand this is college football? Don't they understand the significance if Navy could end that long losing streak to Notre Dame?

"It would be rewriting the history books," Kaheaku-Enhada said, nonchalantly. "I'm assuming it's going to be a big deal."

Yeah, something like that.

Of course, that Kaheaku-Enhada, a native of Kapolei, Hawaii, plays at Navy indicates he has a different perspective than most. Why else would he leave the laid-back paradise of the South Pacific to enter the structured life of a military academy?

"The reason I'm here at the Naval Academy is I wanted to get out and see the world," he said. "That's why I left. I want to do new and different things."

Leading Navy to a victory over Notre Dame definitely would qualify.

UCLA reaching boiling point

Most of the speculation of possible and/or probable coaching changes has been focused on Texas A&M, Nebraska and Arkansas. But the heat is rising out west, where UCLA's up-and-down season may be the last for Karl Dorrell, who is 34-24 as Bruins coach.

Dorrell seemed to be making gradual progress in his first four seasons after replacing Bob Toledo 10 wins in his third season and a victory over USC last season. With a ton of returning starters, 2007 appeared to have the makings of a breakout year.

Instead, it's in danger of becoming a breakdown year. The Bruins are 5-3, with curious losses to Utah, Notre Dame and Washington State. With a 4-1 record in the Pac-10 and games remaining against Arizona State, Oregon and USC, the Bruins still have a chance to win the Pac-10 title.

They'd better, for Dorrell's sake.

In the wake of the 27-7 loss to Washington State, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero hinted that Dorrell's future is dependent on how the Bruins finish.

"We have four tough games, two on the road, two at home, and obviously we're going to need to perform at a high level to win those football games," Guerrero told the Los Angeles Daily News. "I will be very interested to see how we finish this season."

Land of Lincoln

In the matter of a few months, Tennessee coaches have gone from doubting to touting true freshman kicker Daniel Lincoln.

During the spring, Tennessee coaches were unsure whether Lincoln had the range and accuracy to handle the kicking chores, and considered using punter Britton Colquitt in both duties. But Colquitt endured a leg injury early in the season and Lincoln was pressed into duty.

Then, he impressed.

Lincoln has converted 15 of 17 field-goal attempts this season, including two clutch kicks in last week's 27-24 overtime victory over South Carolina.

He made a 48-yard field goal with five seconds left in regulation to force overtime, then had a game-winning 27-yarder in the extra session.

"He's been wonderful to coach," Vols coach Phil Fulmer said. "You don't know what Daniel has been through. I was unmerciful on him in the spring. I think, obviously, he's got a very great future."

Because of Lincoln, the Volunteers do, too. The victory over South Carolina improved Tennessee to 3-2 in the SEC East and put the Volunteers in control of their destiny. If Tennessee wins its remaining SEC games against Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Kentucky it will win the SEC East and play in the SEC Championship Game.

Trivia

Five schools have produced at least two quarterbacks that have started on Super Bowl-winning teams. Name them. (Answer at the end of the column.)

Quick hitters

  • In response to critics, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said the Hokies didn't play prevent defense in the final minutes of last Thursday night's 14-10 loss to Boston College in which BC's Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes in the final minutes. "Anybody saying that doesn't know what the hell they're talking about," Foster said. "That's why they're fans and we coach, OK?"

  • Virginia Tech freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor's sprained ankle has improved and he may be able to start Thursday night's game against Georgia Tech.
  • Wake Forest, which has posted six consecutive victories, is seeking a record-tying seventh in a row when it plays at Virginia on Saturday. The last time Wake Forest won seven in a row was in 1944.

  • With quarterback Xavier Lee serving a two-game suspension for "violation of academic policy," Drew Weatherford is Florida State's only experienced quarterback. If Weatherford were forced to come out of Saturday's game against No. 2 Boston College, he'd be replaced by either D'Vontrey Richardson or Christian Ponder, both redshirt freshmen. Neither has thrown a college pass.

  • Texas' 28-25 victory over Nebraska last weekend was the 100th victory for Mack Brown as coach of the Longhorns. The only other Texas coach to reach 100 victories was Darrell Royal, who posted 167 wins from 1957-76.

  • Missouri coach Gary Pinkel changed his policy that forbids injured players from traveling with the team in response to the season-ending injury suffered by strong safety Pig Brown, the Tigers' best defensive player and team captain. Brown, who had 70 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, tore his right Achilles' tendon last week. He'll be replaced in the secondary by Justin Garrett, who has been slowed by a hyperextended elbow.

  • Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber ranks second in the nation with a 46.7-yard average. He also has had four punts downed at the 1.

  • The BYU at San Diego State game has been rescheduled for Dec. 1. The game originally was scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed because of the fires in southern California.

  • The playing status of Michigan tailback Mike Hart, who has a sprained ankle, and quarterback Chad Henne, who has an injured shoulder, remain uncertain. Coach Lloyd Carr said their status for Saturday's game against Michigan State was "wait and see."

  • Wisconsin may be down to its third-string tailback when it faces Ohio State this week. Starting tailback P.J. Hill may not play because he has a deep bruise on his leg in virtually the same area he broke a bone two years ago. Backup Lance Smith is serving a suspension that forbids him from playing in road games. If Hill cannot play, freshman Zach Brown likely will start for the Badgers.

  • Iowa isn't expected to have linebacker Mike Klinkenborg or cornerback Adam Shada for Saturday's game against Northwestern. Klinkenborg, who has a broken hand, likely will be replaced by freshman Jacody Coleman. Shada, who injured an ankle last week, figures to be replaced by Bradley Fletcher.

  • USC senior quarterback John David Booty, who has missed three games because of a broken finger, is expected to start against Oregon State if he doesn't aggravate the injury in practice this week.

  • Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter is wearing a brace on his right (throwing) thumb, which he sprained while handing off in last week's victory over California. He's still expected to play Saturday at Oregon.

  • UCLA has lost leading rusher Kahlil Bell for the season after he tore the ACL in his right knee in last week's loss to Washington State. Chris Markey, who has been slowed by a turf toe injury, will replace Bell. Sophomores Chane Moline and Christian Ramirez could get more action this week against Arizona.

  • Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick suffered a slight concussion in last week's victory over Florida International, but should play this week against South Carolina.

  • Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy, the SEC's sack leader with eight, has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

  • Georgia coach Mark Richt sent a letter of apology to the SEC for the Bulldogs' bench-clearing celebration after their first touchdown in the 42-30 victory over Florida.

  • Florida's defensive troubles have grown. Starting tackle Javier Estopinan tore the ACL in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season. Backup tackle Terron Sanders is out with a left ankle sprain, and a back injury may keep tackle Brandon Antwine sidelined for the rest of the season.

    Trivia answer

    Alabama has three (Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler). There are four with two: Purdue (Len Dawson, Bob Griese), Stanford (Jim Plunkett, John Elway), Notre Dame (Joe Theismann, Joe Montana) and BYU (Steve Young, Jim McMahon).

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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