Wishbone formation bad luck for Irish

November 04, 1990|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When asked last week how his offensive line would survive against the huge Notre Dame defense, Navy coach George Chaump promised a different approach. That plan turned out to be the wishbone formation that gave Notre Dame fits.

The new-look attack produced 31 points, the most Navy has scored against anyone since a 41-7 win over Yale in fifth game of the 1988 season. It was also the most points scored on Notre Dame this season other than the 36 points Stanford scored in its upset win in South Bend, Ind.

"They had a good game plan and played a power game," Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said. "They threw the ball when they wanted to [Navy was nine of 14 for 161 yards], and they ran it. We didn't expect the wishbone."

And it wasn't the wishbone, according to Chaump and the Navy players. It was just the regular multi-pro set disguised as the wishbone. The result left Notre Dame defenders scratching their heads all day.

"It took awhile for them to figure out what we were doing," Navy tight end Dave Berghult said. "We didn't even base our offense on it in practice [last] week. We started out running it, and it worked."

And it allowed Navy runners to accumulate yardage in 4- and 5-yard chunks. And, with Notre Dame thinking option run, it allowed quarterback Alton Grizzard occasionally to step back in the pocket and fire passes to wide-open receivers.

"We wanted the defense to react differently, and they did," Grizzard said. "They caught on in the second half; they widened the defense."

Although the game goes down as a loss, Chaump had only praise for a team that many believed -- after Navy lost to James Madison -- would not put up much of a fight against Notre Dame. The Irish were 34-point favorites.

"The kids played hard today. I was never more proud of a football team," Chaump said. "These kids are football players, and they love playing against the top teams. They will not back down from anybody. Everyone in the Navy can be proud of the Navy fight and spirit."

* Navy's Rodney Purifoy, the team's second-best rusher a year ago, was moved to defensive back four games into this season. But the offensive unit "borrowed" the tailback yesterday as it went to its wishbone formation.

"I'll do whatever I can to help," said Purifoy, who had seven carries for 47 yards. "I guess I consider myself now as a two-way player."

* Grizzard's 93 yards rushing gives him 2,074 for his career, making him the fourth Navy player to go over 2,000 yards. The top three are Napoleon McCallum (1981-85 -- 4,179 yards), Eddie Meyers (1978-81 -- 2,935 yards) and Cleveland Cooper (1972-74 -- 2,582 yards).

* Navy's 31 points were the most the team has scored against Notre Dame since 1963, when Roger Staubach led the Midshipmen to a 35-16 victory, the team's last win over the Irish.

* Raghib "Rocket" Ismail had 219 all-purpose yards, his fourth straight game of more than 200. His 54-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was the 16th of his career, and 13 of the scores have come on plays exceeding 50 yards.

* The combined 83 points were a Giants Stadium record for college football. The old one was 78, set when Pittsburgh beat Army, 52-26, in 1977.

Notre Dame's 42 second-half points, and the 63 total second-half points were also stadium records.

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