ANNAPOLIS -- After leading Naval Academy Prep School to an undefeated season last year, quarterback Jim Kubiak decided his No. 1 goal this year was to make an impact on Navy's plebe/junior-varsity team.
"The JV games were the first step, and I was trying to become a starter," Kubiak said yesterday. "That was the most important thing to me at the time. I was just going to take things in stride after that."
Kubiak became the plebe/junior-varsity starter and led that team to wins in its first two games. But Kubiak is battling again for a starting spot, this time for the 0-5 varsity.
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound plebe was a surprise starter against Air Force last week, and his statistics were less than impressive (10 of 25 for 71 yards and three interceptions) in a 46-6 defeat. Coach George Chaump has yet to decide between Kubiak and sophomore Jason Van Matre for Saturday's game against Temple at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, but it shouldn't be a surprise if the plebe starts.
"We'll caucus at 7 a.m. Saturday and make up our mind then," Chaump said.
"I don't want anyone to think we've given up on Jason. He has good ability, and we can win with him," Chaump said. "Jim Kubiak has a good arm. With disguised coverages, you have to learn to go to a second receiver, but it doesn't happen in two to three weeks. He has the equipment; he'll be an excellent quarterback."
The Air Force game was the first for Kubiak in a varsity uniform, and he was thankful for the opportunity.
"I think every plebe has that dream of becoming a starting quarterback, or to start such a game," said Kubiak. "When I first came [to Navy], I was just thinking to do my best and keeping working hard, hoping that someone would notice."
Chaump took notice of Kubiak when he was an all-state drop-back passer at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, N.Y. Chaump was attracted to Kubiak because of his strong arm; Kubiak was attracted to Chaump because of his reputation for coaching high-powered offenses.
"I knew that Coach Chaump set 16 passing records at Marshall, and he was a big attraction for me," said Kubiak, who received recruiting letters from Virginia, Lafayette and Connecticut. "He has a great reputation, and he's an offensive genius."
Chaump has the reputation, but since arriving at Navy he hasn't had a quarterback suited to his offensive style. As Alton Grizzard was last year, Van Matre is effective when running the option, but has questionable throwing ability (32 of 66 for 385 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions in four starts).
That's not so with Kubiak, who was 25 of 43 for 362 yards and two touchdowns in the plebe/JV games. At times, he exhibited a nice touch against Air Force. At other times, he appeared to rush against pressure, a factor in the three interceptions.
"I think things went well, although I made some poor decisions," Kubiak said. "Although it was just one appearance, I feel a little better about what I do in practice."
At times last week, Chaump had Kubiak and three plebe receivers in the game. Chaump emphasized yesterday that he was not giving up on the season so that he could look at the players in Navy's future.
"I'm not rebuilding anything. The players you saw on the field are the best we had to win the game," Chaump said. "My job as a coach is to put the best players on the field. I'm a strong advocate for what George Allen said: 'The future is now.' "
Which could mean that Kubiak will start. He has been splitting practice snaps with Van Matre.