While waiting for tomorrow's 4:30 p.m. kickoff in Toledo's Glass Bowl against the tough 8-1 Rockets, here are some afterthoughts of Navy's classic rebound against national leader Notre Dame.
Agreed, a "moral" victory plus a quarter are worth about a 25-cent telephone call. However, the extraordinary effort of the Navy football team and the coaching staff in battling a technically and physically far superior (and 34-point favorite) Notre Dame squad last week gave Middie supporters hope for better things to come.
Assuming that this won't be a one-shot effort, there was enough significant evidence of improvement in all phases of the game that a season turnaround might be in the offing.
Although losing, 52-31, the score itself is deceiving to those paying close attention. This was not a blowout. Irish coach Lou Holtz begrudged the fact that he never could get his second unit into the game.
It was still nip and tuck with both teams scoring twice in the final quarter, until Notre Dame's Todd Lyght returned an on-sides kick for 53 yards late in the game. The Middies nearly matched the Irish in first downs (21-24), rushed for more yardage (221-212), and had control of the ball longer (33:54 to 26:06). Believe it or not, Holtz's charges ultimately had to win with the forward pass although outweighing the Mids both on offense and defense by 30-40 pounds per man and having a phenom like Raghib Ismail running wild.
Reverting to the wishbone attack on offense was great strategy by pass-oriented Coach George Chaump. It caught Notre Dame off guard and kept Navy in the game. Future opponent scouts, including those scratching X's and O's for Toledo, will have one heck of a time deciding which Navy team is going to show up for their ball game.
In the final analysis, it was Navy's fifth defeat with three victories and three games to go. Any observer who isn't elated with the Mids' progress last week, however, just does not understand this game.
For starters, quarterback Alton Grizzard, atoning for some disappointing moments to date, performed like a Heisman Trophy candidate behind an offensive line that rose to unbelievable heights in giving him a chance to operate. He is one dangerous offensive weapon when his teammates are blocking or his pass receivers are making the right cuts.
Tailback Jason Pace, too many times overlooked, is a big-play threat every time he handles the ball, and running backs Kwame Moultrie and Rodney Purifoy continue to recover from their injuries. Wide receivers Jerry Dawson and B. J. Mason, and tight end Dave Berghult lead the pass receivers, with Dawson the leader in all-purpose running, totaling 966 yards.
The linebacking crew of Bill Baroling, Andy Kirkland, Chris Beck, Brad Brown and Tony Domino continue to adjust well on defense, as does Annapolitan Chris Alexander, Dave Christell, Chris Graham, Chris Janke and sophomore Bob Kuberski in the defensive line.
The mind-boggling question facing Navy supporters is how can the Mids look so bad against a mediocre opponent one week and so good against the nation's leader the next? But really, it is the kind of thing that has been going on each week across the nation, Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 all lost last Saturday while being rated the favorites. How can one explain a proven powerhouse like Auburn (No. 4) being absolutely blown out by Florida?
Close, maybe, but 48-7? No way. Or Rice beating Arkansas?
Obviously, emotion, preparation, scouting techniques, determination and self-confidence are keys in determining success. Add also, the element of courage in the trenches -- along both lines of scrimmage.
Yes, old-fashioned courage separates the men from the boys when all other factors such as size and experience are reasonably equal. Middie courage and confidence in abundance should be present tomorrow against Toledo.
It's the "game of the year" for the Rockets as they dedicate their newly renovated Glass Bowl before a capacity audience. New coach Nick Saban is off to an exceptional start, leading the normally tough Mid-American Conference by one game over Central Michigan, and three over traditional power Miami of Ohio. He is doing it mostly with underclassmen in starring roles.
Returning quarterback Kevin Meger is only a sophomore who led Toledo last year both in passing and rushing. He had his best game last week the victory over Western Michigan, hitting 15-of-23 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns, rushing on eight carries for 35 yards and another touchdown. Freshman Troy Parker is the overall leading rusher with 881 yards on 215 carries. Senior tailback Neil Trotter is another outstanding rusher with a 5.6 yards per-carry average.