IT WAS A TOUGH LOSS TO TAKE — the kind at an inopportune moment that makes some coaches dream of another, less heart-breaking career.
Last Saturday, with 22,661 fans celebrating a gala opening of the football season at Navy Marine Corps Stadium, a young Mid team found out the hard way that there is nosubstitute for experience in losing to Ball State, 33-10.
And those "Ball State-who" disclaimers in the stands found out that they play interesting, hard-nosed football in the Mid-American Conference.
The prediction here is that the Mids ultimately will right the ship and be a very respectable ballclub, because some very key positive things happened on the field.
It probably will be one of the biggest challenges of Coach George Chaump's career to glue it alltogether, but he's done it in the past.
In his first game ever atquarterback, sophomore Jason Van Matre wasn't all that bad. Improvedjudgments by the Pensacola, Fla., native in finding receivers -- andquickly -- to throw to would be a big, big plus, in addition to getting decent protection from his offensive linemen.
Tailback Duke Ingraham and fullback Brad Stramanak are going to churn up a lot of yardage this year; they are Division I types. B. J. Mason could make most major college teams in the nation at wide receiver, and James Screen and Tony Gilless are serious receiving threats in Navy's run-and-shoot offense.
Not too many college linebackers are better than Bob Kuberski and Byron Ogden on defending against the run, but the rest of the varying 4-4-2-1, 4-4-3, and 4-3-2-2 defense alignments used last week require tightening or overhauling. The secondary against the pass resembled Swiss cheese. And the defensive line gave Cardinal passer Mike Neu so much time to throw that he looked like Notre Dame's Rick Mirer.
Ball State tailback Corey Croom churned out a record 190yards on the ground as the Mids were sucked into trap after trap along the line of scrimmage.
So Navy defensive coordinator Dick Biddle and defensive coaches Kevin Kiesel, Tim McGuire and Jake Gonas willbe busy preparing the defense for the Virginia game in Charlottesville tomorrow night.
Playing Virginia offers somewhat of an ironic experience in addition to competition against a vastly improving program that made it into the top 10 nationally last year.
Virginia's coach, George Welsh, is actually Navy's winningest coach, having led the Mids to 55 victories from 1973 to 1981 after being one of the Academy' all-time passing leaders as a student from 1953 to 1955. He already has won 58 games at Virginia.
However, Navy still leads the series, 27-7.
Virginia will be smarting from its 17-6 loss to archrival Maryland last week and will be in no mood to sleep through the Navy game. Running out of the multiple I formation with 6-foot-7, 232-pound Matt Blundin at the controls, it will be ready.
Blundin has averaged 388 yards per game in his career at Charlottesville. The Cavaliers are considered an Atlantic Coast Conference title threat, and just last January they were edged in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl by Tennessee, 23-22.
Short punts: Navy returns home next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against old rival William and Mary. . . . Mid co-captain and linebacker Byron Ogden was named to this week's Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division I-A weekly honor roll for his 21 tackles (11 solos) in the Ball State game. . . . Tailback Duke Ingraham rushed for 71 yards on 20 carries -- not bad for a former outside linebacker. . . . Former Navy assistant coaches now on the Virginia coaching staff are Tom O'Brien (1975-1981), Rick Lantz (1971-1976), Ken Mack (1977- 1981), Bob Petchel (1981) and Art Markos (1977-1981). . . . Six plebes played in the opener -- split end Tom Pritchard, place-kicker Tim Rogers, long snapper Brad Soper, defensive backs Chris Hart and Grover Favors and tight end Kevin Hickman. . . . Final comment by CoachChaump: "We got a poor game out of our system and there's a lot of things we can correct."
Earl Schubert, a free-lance writer, is a Baltimore native who lives in Annapolis. A former football coach, he was also a secondary school administrator in Missouri and Montgomery County and worked for 17 years as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Education. His Navy Blue and Gold column appears every Friday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.