Dec. 19, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) - The bowl season begins with a rematch, a resurrection and, if Wake Forest has its way, revenge.

The Demon Deacons (7-5) will seek vindication against Navy (8-4) on Saturday in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl. Wake Forest was unbeaten and ranked 16th in the country before the Midshipmen forced six turnovers in a 24-17 victory on Sept. 27.

"We played them earlier this year and lost a game we thought we could have won," Wake Forest senior cornerback Alphonso Smith said. "It's a great opportunity for us, and we're going to try to give our fans and the people who support us a treat in D.C."

It is the first of 34 bowl games over a 20-day span and the first ever at venerable RFK Stadium, which served as home to the Washington Redskins for 36 seasons.

It's been 12 years since a significant football game was held at the 48-year-old stadium, a concrete doughnut that showcased some of the NFL's greatest names and most memorable games. There are dozens of prettier stadiums in the United States, but this is the only one built for football in the middle of the nation's capital.

"I'm more excited about where we're going than who we're playing," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "I think it's a great location. ... We feel like Washington is the right place."

After touring monuments dedicated to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Demon Deacons fans will settle into a stadium where fans once worshipped Sonny Jurgensen, John Riggins and Joe Gibbs.

Demon Deacons-Midshipmen doesn't have the same ring as Redskins-Cowboys, but there is a bit of history between Wake Forest and Navy. The Demon Deacons have won six of nine in the series, and were 3-0 in the new millennium before Navy ended the run with an upset at Winston-Salem two months ago.

"Every time we watched the film during these last couple of weeks, it makes you want to cringe," said Wake Forest's Riley Skinner, who threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. "It's a good thing that we get another shot at them this year. It's going to be fun playing them in the bowl, but it's going to take a lot of efficiency on offense in order to score some points."

Protecting the ball is the No. 1 priority. Wake Forest is 18-3 when Skinner does not throw an interception and 7-8 when he does.

Navy has won four of five, including shutouts against Northern Illinois (16-0) and Army (34-0) in its final two games. The Midshipmen are known primarily for their triple-option running attack (which amassed 292 yards against Wake), but their defense made the difference in the first meeting.

Skinner had thrown 133 passes without an interception and the Midshipmen had gone 23 years without defeating a ranked opponent before Navy bolted to a 17-0 lead and held on for the win.

"We're going to try and do some different stuff in the game plan and, hopefully, get them on their heels," Skinner said.

Many bowl games offer a one-of-a-kind matchup. This one does not, but that won't ruin the fun for the participants.

"It's a bowl game and you have to take that as an honor. Not every team in the nation gets to go to a bowl game," Navy fullback Eric Kettani said. "It's a rematch. So what? Rematches are completely different games. I'm sure they're going to come out hungry to get revenge on us."

It's the first time since 1907 that Navy has played an opponent twice in one season. Wake Forest last faced a team twice in 1945, tying South Carolina during the regular season before defeating the Gamecocks in the Gator Bowl.