Coach Tubby Raymond brings his 6-4 Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens into Navy-Marine Corps Stadium at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, in an attempt to break the 3-3 record between the two schools.
Raymond (202-82-2), a 25-year coaching veteran at Delaware, is one of the most respected coaches in the nation and consistently has held onto his deceptive split-T offense. His teams hold a 3-2 record against the Middies, winning last year in Newark, 10-9. The series between Navy and Delaware actually began in 1931 with Coach Rip Miller's Mids winning, 12-7, during a 5-5-1 season.
Navy and Delaware both have beaten Richmond and Villanova this year by similar scores, so this one can be viewed as a tossup.
The Middies, however, are a different ballclub these days after a stupendous effort against No. 1 Notre Dame and a nail-biting win over a very tough Toledo squad last week. On their last series of plays, Navy came from behind to ruin the Rockets' dedication of their renovated stadium, 14-10, in front of 23,958 screaming fans. Navy was losing, 10-0, going into the fourth quarter.
It was a typical spirited effort that reminded old sailors of Navy victories in the days gone by. Unlikely heroes emerged at critical points in the game and finally turned the momentum in Navy's favor. Critical defensive plays of the game were junior Bill Yancey's pass interceptions in the secondary. His third of the day happened with 11 seconds to play and stopped Toledo quarterback Dave Meger's final drive into Mid territory.
On offense, Dave Berghult and Rob Holmberg made timely catches of quarterback Alton Grizzard's passes in that wild fourth period. Also, dependable split end B. J. Mason and tailback Jason Pace caught Grizzard's two throws at the end to win the game. Jerry Dawson also caught three passes for 89 yards.
Nose guard Andy Kirkland once again excelled on the defensive line with seven unassisted tackles. The Adamsburg, Pa., senior now has 77 stops this season, 59 unassisted, to strengthen the All-East first-team selection given to him early in the year.
In a ballgame that found both teams possessing the ball for 30 minutes, Toledo scored more first downs (21-17), rushed for more yardage (208-125), and had more passing yards (156-149), than Navy, but couldn't evade Yancey's interceptions at critical moments. The Mid-American Conference co-champions simply could not stop Grizzard and company with the game on the line.
Once again Navy goes into a ballgame high on emotion, determined to wipe out memories of that last home game with the James Madison Dukes, who incidentally, lost again last week, this time to a better-than-average William & Mary.
Questionable starters tomorrow due to ankle injuries are tackle Mike Davis and guard Dan Dunaway in the offensive line. Mason, center Bob Friedman, guard Dave Lilleflaren, tackle Greg Hlatky and tight end Berghult are ready to go on offense. Coach George Chaump will start Grizzard, tailback Jason Pace, fullback Kwame Moultrie and Dawson in the offensive backfield. Frank Schenk returns as the place-kicker, and Jeff Triplett returns as punter.
Linebackers Byron Ogden, Mark Ellis and Chris Beck or Brad Brown will join standout Bill Bowling in the defensive secondary along with defensive backs Bill Yancey, Darnell Graham, Chad Chatlos and Chris Cordero. Interior linemen Chris Yankee, Kirkland and Robert Kuberski will shore up the middle of the defensive line.
Other than offensive tackle Tom Bockirus at 280 pounds, the Blue Hens have no so-called monsters facing Navy on the line of scrimmage, a welcome change. They are fast, however, which leads to an effective wing-T offense that Coach Raymond is credited with perfecting years ago.
Running at times with a power unbalanced line and a deceptive passing attack led by sophomore Bill Vergantino, Delaware is always a go-for-broke threat. In addition, Vergantino leads the the Blue Hens in rushing with 658 yards and four touchdowns on 180 carries. He is only the second quarterback at Delaware to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his career (1,198), the first being Rich Gannon, now with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Blue Hens' most notable victories this year, besides beating Villanova and Richmond, came earlier in the season over Boston University, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The heart-breaking loss to powerful Maine University (35-21) kept them out of the bid for the Yankee Conference title. The game with Navy tomorrow will close out their season.
When one considers that Coach Raymond has only three losing seasons in 25, a serious challenge faces the Middies in attempting to put together their first winning year since 1982 under Coach Gary Tranquill (6-5).
The Navy-Delaware series resumes in 1992 when the Blue Hens will be the Mids' homecoming opponent.
Mid Bill Yancey was named ECAC Division I-A Defensive Player of the Week. Quarterback Alton Grizzard was named to the Honor Roll . . .