SAN DIEGO (AP) -- There's no question which team should have
homefield advantage for the Poinsettia Bowl -- Navy, by a nautical
mile over Colorado State.
The Midshipmen had the run of the harbor on Wednesday, which
only seemed natural, including a pep rally aboard the amphibious
assault ship USS Peleliu.
On Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium, they'll have a cheering
section of some 20,000 for the inaugural game.
Those are the perks of playing in San Diego, the West Coast's
largest Navy port.
"It's great to have your fans there and hopefully we can feed
off their emotion, but once it's kicked off and you get hit in the
mouth, you forget how many people are watching," coach Paul
Johnson said Wednesday during a news conference aboard the USS
Midway, a storied aircraft carrier that's now a museum.
"I think it's really more a tribute to what the Naval Academy's
all about. We're fortunate here in San Diego that we have some
military bases and a lot of people are stationed in the area, and
hopefully they're proud of what's going on at the academy. We'll
have a good level of support, I'm sure. Will it make any difference
in the game? I hope so, but I don't know."
Navy (7-4) is playing in its third straight bowl game, a first
for the academy.
Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick isn't sure how the Rams (6-5)
"Sometimes we play better under those circumstances, on the
road with a hostile crowd," Lubick said. "I don't know if that
will work this time."
The real worry for the Rams will be the Navy's option offense.
The Midshipmen are ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing offense at
305.2 yards per game. Navy gained a school-record 5.6 yards per
carry this season.
Quarterback Lamar Owens leads the three-pronged attack with 830
yards and 11 touchdowns on 195 carries, and fullback Adam Ballard
has 539 yards and six TDs on 94 carries. Ballard took over for
injured fullback Matt Hall three weeks before Navy's 42-23 win over
Army on Dec. 3.
"They're going to present a lot of challenges to us," said
Lubick, whose defense allowed an average of 200.6 rushing yards per
game. "I hope we can get the ball back once in a while during the
course of the game. Nobody runs it was well or better than the
Naval Academy. They do a great job with it."
Poinsettia Bowl Preview
Despite the closest point spread of any bowl game this season currently, SportsNation did not waver when asked to vote on the Poinsettia Bowl. Sonny Lubick's Rams were picked by 67 percent of SportsNation to take to down the Midshipmen. And they expect Navy to have a tough time dealing with the pass-and-catch combo of Justin Holland and David Anderson. Does Vegas know something that SportsNation doesn't?
Navy ran wild against Army, with Ballard gaining 192 of the
Midshipmen's 490 yards rushing, with two touchdowns. Owens added 99
yards rushing and three TDs.
Likewise, the Rams could be a challenge to Navy. Johnson thinks
his undersized defensive line could have a hard time with Colorado
State running back Kyle Bell, who ran for 1,166 yards and nine
touchdowns this year. Rams quarterback Justin Holland completed
62.2 percent of his passes in throwing for 2,804 yards and 20 TDs.
Navy opened the season with three-point losses to Maryland and
Stanford before winning seven of its last nine.
Navy has just 18 seniors, and Johnson credited them with not
letting the season slip away.
"They decided on their watch, they weren't going to let the
program slide back," he said.