The outlook doesn't get any brighter for the Navy football team as it prepares for tomorrow's 1:30 p.m. kickoff against Coach Gary Blackney's Bowling Green Falcons.
With 38 lettermen returning, this is the year the Falcons have been picked by the Midwest media to challenge the tough Central Michigan Chippewas, recent conquerors of Big Ten's Michigan State, for the Mid-American Conference title.
Bowling Green opened with a 17-6 win over Eastern Michigan, lost a nail-biter to the Mountaineers of West Virginia, 24-17, and downed the University of Cincinnati last week, 20-16.
Next week, the Falcons have Central Michigan at home. However, they won't look past Navy. Coming to Annapolis is high cotton for Bowling Green and its followers.
As for the Mids, they continue to struggle. On their first series last week against William and Mary, they flashed a disciplined, well-balanced, picture-perfect 80-yard attack, leading to a quick score on 18 plays.
But from there, except for occasional displays of coordinated effort both on offense and defense, it appeared that everything mainly went downhill in a confused performance characterized by inconsistency.
Defensive breakdowns, for example, allowed Tribe tailback Robert Green to amass 181 yards rushing -- including 79 yards on one scamper -- and quarterback Chris Hakel to complete 16 of 21 passes for 220 yards, including a short pass to backup tailback AllanWilliams that went for 67 yards and a touchdown.
It wasn't pretty, much to the disappointment of most of the 23,697 fans. But again, these things happen to a young team desperately trying to assemble theoptimum combination of players and at the same time upgrading the fundamentals of the game.
Navy is not a good Division I football team at this time. But, undoubtedly, the potential is there and is beingdeveloped week by week.
Let's look at some of the intangibles that go toward making up a good football team, like an unrelenting and sustained spirit. Seniors B.J. Mason and Byron Ogden have lived with adversity in the past, and are captaining a squad of young men that simply does not know how to quit.
As far as the all-important presence of team spirit is concerned, Naval Academy teams have few equals.
Then there's size. This is probably the biggest Navy team yet withplayers like Max Lane (6-feet-7, 268 pounds), Carl Voss (6-6, 281), Mike Davis (6-3, 283), and Bill Bensch (6-6, 269) on offense, and BobKuberski (6-5, 283), Dan Pidgeon (6-2, 279), Robert Goodson (6-1, 246), and Dave Shaw (6-0, 235) on defense.
As for speed, Navy is notthe fastest team around but has demonstrated flashes of swiftness that can be termed adequate in most instances.
So, where is the breakdown at this point? Certainly not in the area of near-future talented prospects.
Unbelievably, there are six plebes actually getting into game competition, led by split end Tom Pritchard, who is leading the team in receptions. And 17 sophomores are on the squad.
Add tothese totals the fact that most of the members of last year's undefeated prep school squad are on the plebe team this season, and once again you can imagine future success.
The ball now rests in the hands of the coaching staff.
For now, the most significant intangible of all -- something called "experience" -- is the Mids' glaring weakness and is presenting the challenge of Coach George Chaump's life. Strategy and game readiness aside, fundamentals are basic to any football team.
Such problems as hand tackling, blown assignments, failure to be alert, ineffective blocking, an inferior kicking game and inflexible offensive patterns easily scouted must be corrected.
With the undefeated Air Force Academy coming in on Oct. 12, followed by games against Temple, Notre Dame and Wake Forest, and a homecoming datewith undefeated Delaware -- always a tough one with its wing-T offense -- the Mids have their work cut out for them.
The prediction here is there are some great ballgames on the horizon.
Some good developments:
Free safety Chad Shatlos, a 5-11, 191-pound juniorfrom Youngwood, Pa., was selected to this week's ECAC I-A All-East honor roll for his nine tackles (six solos) and two fumble recoveries last week. . . . Fullback Brad Stramanak, a sophomore from Johnstown,Pa., has scored in four straight games, including the final one lastyear against Army. . . . The Navy junior varsity is undefeated. Silver Spring's Lionel Hines, a 186-pound sophomore tailback, scored the winning touchdown against Fork Union Military Academy. . . . Jason Van Matre is as good a running quarterback as there is. . . . No weaknesses at linebacker with Kuberski, Mark Ellis, David Shaw and Byron Ogden defending against the run. . . . The Navy SEALs parachute-jumpingteam will appear again tomorrow.
Earl Schubert, a free-lancewriter, is a Baltimore native who lives in Annapolis. A former football coach, he was 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 appearsevery Friday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.