When Navy visited Charlottesville, Va., a year ago, the city was riding an emotional cloud. Virginia's win over Clemson the previous week had boosted the team's confidence and eventually helped vault the Cavaliers to the top of the college rankings.
There will be no such frenzied atmosphere when the Midshipmen (0-1) take on the Cavaliers (0-1) at Scott Stadium tonight -- just an angry group of Virginia players trying to find themselves -- perhaps without their starting quarterback.
In other games involving state teams, Morgan State (0-2) will play at Bethune-Cookman (1-1); Towson State will open its season at home against Boston University (0-1); Bowie State (0-1) will be at home against Hampton (0-1); and Frostburg State (0-1) will be host to Catholic (1-0).
Western Maryland will be host to Albright, and Salisbury State will be at C.W. Post in season openers for all four teams.
Virginia is coming off a 17-6 loss at Maryland last week during which the Cavaliers fumbled six times (losing four). Since rising to the No. 1 ranking by winning its first seven games last season, Virginia has lost four straight and five of six.
And the Cavaliers may have lost starting quarterback Matt Blundin for this game.
The Roanoke Times & World-News and the Richmond Times-Dispatch both reported that the fifth-year quarterback has injured his right elbow. Virginia officials said Blundin's status is uncertain.
Bobby Goodman, a redshirt junior who has not attempted a pass in a college game, reportedly has been working with the first offense and is expected to start in Blundin's place.
With the losses of key players, including quarterback Shawn Moore and wide receiver Herman Moore, the Cavaliers see 1991 as a rebuilding year. But size alone will give Virginia a huge advantage over a Navy team that had trouble handling Ball State's bulk last week.
"We'll have some tough matchups because they're a big team," Navy coach George Chaump said.
How big? Senior offensive tackle Ray Roberts is 6 feet 6, 298 pounds and recently was listed by Football News as fifth in the race for the Outland Trophy and ninth in the race for the Lombardi Award. On defense, right end Chris Slade (6-5, 235) is far from the biggest, but probably is the most punishing of the Virginia linemen. And at tight end, sophomore Aaron Mundy (6-6, 237) caught eight passes for 116 yards against Maryland last week.
"Mundy's a good player, but, obviously, he still has a little more to do," Virginia coach George Welsh said. "He's gained weight. He has a little more power. He's a big target."
For Navy, the key will be to find any target. Against Ball State, Jason Van Matre, and Brian Ellis in relief, combined to complete just eight of 21 passes (freshman tight end Tom Pritchard was the leading receiver with three catches for 68 yards). A heavy Ball State pass rush contributed mightily to Navy's ineffective passing game, and the Midshipmen should expect to see more of the same tonight.
"We won't try to be as greedy as far as passing," said Van Matre, who had trouble with his long drops. "We'll throw maybe more 5-yard dumps instead of 15-yard passes."
The Midshipmen also will have to get more production out of their kicking game. Freshman Tim Rogers didn't get much distance on his three kickoffs, and punter Tom Frosch averaged just 32.8 yards on his four attempts.
Despite a 56-14 victory over the Mids last season, Welsh doesn't expect an easy win.
"I think it's going to be a tough football game," Welsh said. "This Navy team is better than what we played a year ago, and better than what played against Notre Dame."