The U.S. Naval Academy opens its 112th football season next Saturdayat 7 p.m. at home against a new opponent, the Cardinals of Ball State from Muncie, Ind.
They are the first of two Mid-American Conference opponents on the Middie schedule. The other, the Bowling Green Falcons, come to Annapolis on Sept. 28.
The opener should be a good test for Coach George Chaump's 1991 edition of the Blue and Gold. The Cardinals sport one of the potentially outstanding defenses among the smaller Midwest schools.
They have an array of defensive starters from 1990 who led them to victoriesin their final four games. However, the offensive lineup is so depleted from last year that just about every position is open to newcomers.
Chaump's Middies will be led by senior co-captains Byron Ogden,an aggressive outside linebacker from Burke, Va., and the fleet B. J. Mason, the outstanding flanker from Valdosta, Ga.
In all, only nine returning starters (four on offense and five on defense) will open for Navy. Not one quarterback who took a snap from center for the varsity in 1990 is on the squad.
Sophomore Jason Van Matre and junior Brian Ellis, who worked well in spring practice, are competing forthe starting assignment on the spirited and confident squad that Chaump says is "bigger and stronger" than last year's team.
The football opener always is an anticipated time for everyone at Navy. The annual opening encounters with William and Mary College from 1930 through 1942 were historic clashes in old Thompson Stadium along the Severn.
The victories over the Boston College Eagles in Coach Wayne Hardin's early years in 1959 and 1960, the upsets over Penn State in 1964 and 1967, and the wild wins over Virginia in 1974 (35-28)and North Carolina in 1984 (33-30) are long recalled.
Or, going way back to 1926, the victory over Big Ten opponent Purdue (17-13), that started the Middies off to an undefeated season with Coach Bill Ingram at thehelm and captained by legendary Frank Wickhorst was a big one.
The appointment of Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch as the 54th superintendentof the Naval Academy has brought back refreshing memories of the great 1963 season.
Midshipman Lynch, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder from Lima, Ohio, captained the team that went 9-1 in the regular season and was rated No. 2 in the nation. It lost the No. 1 rating only in a rugged Cotton Bowl battle with top-ranked University of Texas -- considered the Longhorns' greatest team of all time.
The 1963 squad is still considered by many as one of Navy's all-time best. It had All-American Roger Staubach at the offensive controls, fullback Pat Donnelly's crushing ground gainers and pass-catching ends Jim Campbell and Dave Sjuggerud.
It also had Fred Marlin's all-time Navy season recordof 37 out of 41 extra points, a comparatively small but quick offensive line, and a tough defense led by two-way player Tom Lynch.
The1963 opener in Morgantown, W.Va., against the always tough West Virginia Mountaineers was a real shocker, with Navy winning, 51-0.
With a twinkle, the new superintendent today still relates the final score to the number on his jersey that day, No. 51.
With a beginning like that one, the 1963 Midshipmen went on to whip the likes of Michigan in sold out Ann Arbor, 26-13; Pittsburgh at home, 24-12; Notre Dame for the third time in four years, 35-14, in South Bend; Maryland at home, 42-7; Duke in Durham, 38-25; and Army in Philadelphia, 21-15.
One other glance back to those years by a student of football naturally would bring up a discussion of the size of the players then and now.
In that opening game in 1963, Navy's biggest player was lineman Dick Merritt, a "huge" 231 pounds. Lynch played both ways at center and linebacker at 210 pounds. The offensive line actually averaged 209 pounds per man with a 196-pound guard named Fred Marlin. The starting backfield averaged 185 pounds per man. Can one imagine a good high school football team today being that small?