Alton Grizzard carried the quarterback baton for Navy for most of four seasons. Now he is handing it off. But to whom?
In the wake of the Middies' 30-20 defeat in the 100th anniversary of the Army-Navy game Saturday in Philadelphia, Grizzard leaves a trail of records and a batch of potential successors.
Brian Ellis, a sophomore from Morrow, Ga., is one. He was listed in the press guide as Navy's "quarterback of the future," but he didn't throw a pass all season.
Another is Jason Van Matre, a plebe from Pensacola, Fla. Van Matre was the quarterback and most valuable player last year for the unbeaten Naval Academy Preparatory School team in Newport, R.I., rushing for a school-record 1,207 yards.
But Van Matre didn't throw a pass this season, either, dabbling only at tailback. Neither did Steven Seoane, a sophomore.
But this doesn't seem to disturb coach George Chaump. Yes, they're inexperienced, he concedes, but they're not without talent.
"I feel good about them," Chaump said. "There will be two other quarterbacks coming in from our strong prep team this year, and I feel good about them, too."
Grizzard started 34 of 44 games over four years, playing at times with distinction. He leaves as Navy's all-time total offense leader with 5,666 yards and with academy marks for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game, season and career.
In Saturday's loss, he threw his 12th touchdown pass of the year, breaking the school single-season record he shared with Bill Byrne (1984).
Despite Grizzard's efforts, Navy fell short of its main goals. By losing to Air Force and Army, the Middies failed to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. They didn't receive a bowl bid, they didn't beat Army and they didn't end their string of losing seasons that has reached eight.
It is small consolation that this year's 5-6 record was the Middies' best since 1982. They went 6-5 that season, in Gary Tranquill's first year as George Welsh's successor, but haven't had a winner since.
Chaump isn't used to losers. He hasn't coached one since the last time Navy was a winner, 1982, when he was 4-6 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Last week, at his final news conference of the season, Chaump noted how the Middies this year "took adversity and built on it. We got better. We're not a bad team now." He still feels that way.
"We have a good nucleus," Chaump said. "We have pride; morale is high. I like our guys coming back."
One of them is plebe fullback Brad Stramanak, who temporarily put Navy back in the game Saturday with a 45-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
"We're not just out to beat Army," Stramanak said. "We want to beat everybody."
Senior Jerry Dawson, who caught 46 passes for 649 yards this fall, believes he and his classmates have left Navy football a modest legacy.
"We were on the brink of something great and let it slide away against Army," Dawson said. "But nobody gave up. I hope I was part of the attitude we're leaving. This team is headed to a bowl next year."
* Army's lone pass, Willie McMillian to Myreon Williams, went for a the Cadets' first scoring throw against Navy since 1971 . . . The Army-Navy series is knotted once more, at 42-42-7 . . . Sixty-eight of the 91 games have been in Philadelphia, and the teams are tied there, too, 32-32-4 . . . Jim Young retires as Army's coach with six winning seasons in eight years and tailback Mike Mayweather departs as the all-time service academy rushing champion with 4,299 yards, including 87 in the finale.