Midshipmen battle Cadets - Coach Rick Lantz questioned

26 Nov 2001 | Staff Sgt. Jason Huffine

Editor's Note: This Saturday on CBS one of college football's great rivalries takes place as the Midshipmen of Navy challenge the Cadets of Army at Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia. Combat Correspondent Staff Sgt. Jason Huffine talked to Navy interim Head Coach Rick Lantz yesterday about his Marine past, how he motivates a team and what Navy can do to beat Army this weekend.

Q Coach Lantz, in the media this week everyone's talking about your past as a Marine and what that brings to the game. Can you explain?

A Well I served from 1956-59 as a 2531 (radio operator). I was a sergeant at both Echo Company 2/12 and 8th Communications Battalion when in was at Camp Geiger in Lejeune. I always knew I wanted to be a Marine. One of those types that graduated from high school on a Monday and was on the foot prints at Parris Island on a Wednesday.

Q Did you come from a military family?

A Both my father and uncle served as Marines in World War II. They saw extensive action in the South Pacific.

Q Back to football. How do you motivate a team for their biggest game of the year that's 0-9 this year and their only win in the last two years coming last year against the Cadets?

A Motivation's not a problem with the players when you play Army. The excitement is everywhere. They learn about the Army rivalry as plebes at the academy. Sometimes my job as a coach is to control it and keep the players playing the game.

Q As a fan of college football why should I care about the game?

A It's different. It's two service academies battling. I've had the opportunity to coach in some of the biggest rivalries in college football - Miami/Florida State, Notre Dame/USC. I compare this to any of those rivalries. It's the atmosphere. You name it.

Q Army Head Coach Todd Berry said in a recent interview that it's been difficult to focus this year following the events of Sept. 11. How has Navy attempted to maintain its focus?

A I don't believe the team ever truly lost focus. As a coach it's my job to maintain that. I know many of the players have friends and former teammates who are over there (Afghanistan) right now, and I'm sure they think about them and what many of them could face. However, I think football has been a relief for many of the players.

Q During a recent Associated Press interview, you promised a game as good as watching two brothers fight. Can you explain?

A That's not exactly what I said. What I said was that the game would be like two brothers fighting. When brothers fight they go all out; Like Warriors in fact. But when it's over, they're back to being brothers.

Q You've had some nail bitters this year. What can seniors Ryan Hamilton and Jeff Gaddy, both who have chosen to become Marines following graduation, do to ensure a Navy victory?

A Ryan Hamilton is our emotional leader on the field - a starting linebacker. He makes many of the defensive calls. We need him to take charge. Jeff Gaddy is a heck of a receiver that can make big plays when he needs to. We'll need a couple from him this week.

Q In your last game, you were pretty even statistically against Notre Dame except for rushing yards. Navy gave up 272 yards on the ground. What can Navy do to stop an Army rushing attack that averages nearly 160 rushing yards a game?

A Notre Dame was one of those power offenses that takes the ball right at you and didn't rely on their passing as much.  We expected the run. Army uses a lot of single back formations that make the defense adjust and spread out to cover receivers. Then they'll run a draw play and suck in the defense and get everyone of their heels. Then try and hit you with a pass play. I'll have to tell my defense to cover their assignments, stay disciplined and explode through their tackles.

Q Your offense struggled inside the twenty against Notre Dame. What can Navy do this week to put points on the board?

A We were able last week to maintain some drives, but not able to put six points on the board. Players need to make big plays. I think we'll be able to drive again this week, but we have to score. Score touchdowns. I know Army will score and can. Our offense will have to convert for us to win the game.

The then first-year Defensive Coordinator Lantz took over head coaching duties earlier this month when winless Navy fired six-year Head Coach Charlie Weatherbie and hired Lantz as the interim coach. His previous coaching duties include time at Miami, Virginia, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and others. Lantz also spend time with the New England Patriots as an assistant in 1981.