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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.
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.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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