Navy's second season begins tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in the Navy-MarineCorps Stadium against inter-service rival Air Force Academy from Colorado Springs, Colo. It won't be easy.
The wishbone running attackby the Falcons grounded the University of Wyoming last week, 51-28. But when two service rivals meet on a football field you can throw out any previous statistics in attempting to predict the outcome.
Supporters of the Mids have been waiting for the team to put it all together, and it would be a a welcome development if they did it tomorrow.
To date, the defense against the run has been exceptionalat times. The passing game, although inconsistent, has shown promisewhen quarterback Jason Van Metre has had time to throw and is not running for his life.
Flanker B. J. Mason and freshman split end TomPritchard are Division I-A receivers in all senses of the word. Tailback Billy Jones' emergence as a serious threat adds some luster to the ground game that has featured Brad Stramanak and Duke Ingraham.
The defensive and offensive lines this year are big enough for a change, and the linebacker crew of Bob Kuberski, Mark Ellis, David Shaw and Byron Ogden is certainly a feature in overall team performance.
But periodic defensive breakdowns, particularly against the pass, and turnovers at the worst possible times have resulted in the big play sinking the Mids time and again.
In line with Coach George Chaump's statement that "we used the open week to regroup and get back to the basics," it is hoped that it will all come together by tomorrow.
As for the Air Force, it is having a great year, with a 5-1 record, and is hoping for a victory as it pursues the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the third consecutive year.
Navy's last win over the Falcons occurred in 1981, when the great tailback Eddie Myers and quarterback Marco Pajnanelli combined for 285 yards on the way to a 30-18 win.
It was also the year that the Midshipmen went to the Liberty Bowl, where they were edged by Ohio State in a thriller, 31-28. Navy captured the Commander-in-Chief trophy from 1973 to 1976, and again from 1978 to 1981.
The Air Force offense is led by senior quarterback Rob Perez, who rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns last week. His backup is junior Jarvis Baker, who has proved effective in running the wishbone attack.
In an unlikely development, the Mids findthemselves outweighing the Falcons on both offense and defense, 247 to 233 pounds per man on defense and 244 to 233 pounds on offense.
The biggest player on the field will be Navy sophomore tackle Max Lane, weighing in at 286 pounds on a 6-foot-7 frame.
A Navy win certainly would be considered an upset, but is by all means not out of the realm of a possibility.
Much is at stake, including turning thisseason around, beating another service academy, winning the Commander-in-Chief Trophy, and shoring up Chaump's confidence in this young team.
Short punts -- The Mid Lightweight team became a contender for the Eastern Lightweight title last week by downing Princeton, 33-0,behind the passing of Matt Kirby and the running of Todd Rampey. . .. The Navy-Temple game next week in Philadelphia is shaping up as a close encounter. . . . Potent Delaware comes in again for homecoming Oct. 26. . . . After facing the likes of No. 1-ranked Florida State, Mississippi State, Syracuse, Alabama and Southern Mississippi, Tulane's Green Wave entertains the Mids in the Louisiana Superdome on Nov. 9. . . . That Mid kicking field goals and extra points is freshman Tim Rogers from Birmingham, Ala. The Mids could field an all-freshman/sophomore team. . . . In Navy's first win over Air Force in 1960, who ran all over the Falcons in Baltimore? Why, Heisman trophy-winner JoeBellino, of course.
Earl Schubert, a free-lance writer, 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 appears every Friday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.