The eighth meeting between Navy and the University of Delaware takesplace tomorrow on Homecoming Day at the U.S. Naval Academy, with thekickoff scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Once again, the Mids will face a team having a big winning season (6-1). Delaware dropped Villanova last week, 38-28, and is making a serious bid for the Yankee Conferencetitle.
Navy and Delaware have had one common opponent, and the comparative scores in the games each has had with William and Mary give an indication that this will be a free-scoring battle. The Mids lost to theTribe, 26-21, and the Blue Hens edged them, 28-21.
Fans attendingthe game will have the rare opportunity to see the winged-T attack, which features some of the elements of the "T" formation combined with the power thrusts of the old single-wing.
Delaware coach Tubby Raymond introduced this offensive setup years ago and has received national recognition on his way to a career 202-83-2 record. He has put Delaware on the national football map during his 25-year stint as coach at the university.
Delaware will be led by quarterback Bill Vergantino, who set a school record in the Villanova game last week whenhe scored four touchdowns in the first half. He rushed for 119 yardson 17 carries and also completed 13 of 22 passing attempts.
His running mates in the backfield have been named "The L Train" with the threesome of halfback Jim Lazarski, tailback Lanue Johnson and halfback Marcus Lewis combining for 1,040 yards rushing this season.
TheBlue Hens' defense is somewhat suspect, having allowed 94 points in the last three games. All in all, 17 starters are among 44 lettermen returning this season.
A well-used axiom proclaiming that playing a game "close" only counts in horseshoes can be applied to sum up the0-6 record of the Mids' this season. As in four of its five previousgames, Navy played heart-breakingly close last week against Temple, a legitimate Division I-A opponent.
The wheels fell off again in the second half after going out at intermission with a 14-7 lead. The final score of 21-14 was respectable against an opponent who has moved the ball well in encounters with several top 20 teams. But again, the brass ring eluded the Mids.
As in each of Navy's previous games, Coach George Chaump and his staff had designed a new and different wrinkle in the offensive game plan that had the Owls hanging on the ropes with a confused defense. But at this level of play, good coachesmake adjustments at halftime, put various scouting reports aside, and come out with a different look on defense in the second half.
Temple's adjustments neutralized, to a degree, Navy's offensive strategy. The Mids courageously stayed in the game but mistakes and turnovers again proved costly.
Nevertheless, this was an improved Navy effort against a good team. Chaump noted it "was as good an offensive first half as we've had since I've been at Navy."
In light of this disappointing season, with Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind., on the horizon, what can really be said when this team is playing its heart out week after week? It never quits in the face of adversity, and it admirably keeps the level of intensity up.
Justifiable criticism is certainly in order, but it's still too early to entirely give up on theseason.
Maturing each week is probably the most outstanding groupof freshmen (eight) and sophomores (nine) to come along at Navy in recent memory. They actually are starting games and filling important roles on both sides of the line.
Defensive back Mark McGinnis, a junior from Monroe, N.C., was selected to the Eastern College AthleticConference Division I-A All-East honor roll for his nine tackles (eight unassisted) against Temple.
In tomorrow's game, the Mids will have a slight edge in size, lead on offense by guard Mike Davis, a senior at 283 pounds, and junior linebacker Bob Kuberski at the same weight on defense.
The lightest ballplayer on the field will be Delaware's split end Keita Malloy at 157 pounds.
Taking a look at previous homecoming games at Navy since 1950, the Mids have won 31 out of41, including 15 straight from 1952-1966, mostly over archrival William and Mary. However, other homecoming victories were over Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College and Duke.
Embarrassing losses came in 1989 and 1990 to James Madison, an up-and-coming Division I-AA power.
The Midshipmen march-on tomorrow is scheduled for 1 p.m.
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.