After an absence of 18 years, Navy and Tulane's Green Wave will meetagain tomorrow in the Louisiana Superdome at 7 p.m.
Along with Temple and Wake Forest, Tulane presents the beginning of a "new look" football schedule at Navy, featuring Division I-A schools with similarapproaches to the concept of the student-athlete in intercollegiate competition.
In 1992, Rutgers, Vanderbilt and Rice will be added to the Mid schedule, and in 1993, Colgate and Southern Methodist will come to Annapolis. All of these schools have outstanding football traditions thathave lasted most of this century, and all of these schools continually have stressed their academic reputations.
After a bruising, butlosing, experience last week at No. 5 Notre Dame in a game in which they actually out-rushed the Irish, 234 to 180 yards, kept the ball 11 more minutes and were edged, 21-20, in first downs in the 38-0 ballgame, the Mids were clobbered again in the air by 303 to 62 yards.
Nevertheless, they proved to themselves that they could compete physically with the best. Looking ahead to their next three opponents, Tulane, Wake Forest and Army, whose combined record is 4-22 (three of the wins belong to Army), a successful conclusion to the season can berealistically expected.
To pass off Tulane's 0-9 record would be foolish, however. Although it has been losing big to the likes of No.1 Florida State, No. 7 Alabama, No. 17 East Carolina, No. 18 Syracuse and Ole Miss, the team is still highly competitive in its class. Coach Greg Davis and his staff probably are feeling a little more optimistic about tomorrow night's clash with 0-8 Navy after surviving nineweeks of physical abuse.
In a series that began in 1949 in a 21-21 tie with Coach George Sauer's Mids, Tulane has not lost in its fourother games with Navy. Coach George Welsh's 4-7 Navy squad came close in 1973, losing, 15-17.
The Green Wave never has really recovered offensively since the loss by graduation of its record-setting quarterback, Deron Smith, who kept Tulane close in every game in 1990, including a big win over Syracuse.
A respectable ground game has held up this year, with fullback Chance Miller and tailback Harold Dennis leading the charge in Davis' shift from a read-and-react mode to a more aggressive attack. But the Green Wave has been simply overwhelmed on defense. For the first time this year, in its visit to New Orleans, Navy does not meet an outstanding passing attack.
Much has been said and written about last week's Navy performance at South Bend. Much of it centered on the Mids' plucky effort against one of the nation's best college teams. But it is particularly interesting to look at the overall strategy that Chaump came up with. If the Tulane scoutwas covering this one, he received an eyeful.
That winged-T, unbalanced-line running attack with a wishbone flair by Navy was extremely effective. One also could recognize a little single-wing blocking in the whole setup.
How this offensive formation could be introduced and operated so effectively with one week's practice is a story in itself and a tribute to the intelligence of the Navy football squad. Notre Dame did not effectively adjust to stopping the outside option plays until late in the third quarter.
That so-called eight-man defensive line of Navy was actually a 4-4-3 set-up, shifting into a 5-3-3 alignment on anticipated passing downs. The Mids' Chris Beck, Byron Ogden, Mark Ellis and Javier Zuluaga were simply terrific in backing up linemen Bob Kuberski, Dan Pidgeon (later injured) and Robert Goodson, with strong safety Chad Chatlos filling in quickly.
It has been obvious to close observers of Navy football that this year's team, with all its youthfulness and inexperience leading to numerous mistakes, is not being physically manhandled by anyone. The players are big enough and strong enough to trade blows with the toughest. This really is a new development that will influence the strategy of future opponents and of course, encourage Navy supporters.
Navy gained nopassing yardage the entire first half. The football was being squeezed and the time of possession increased. But no points were going up on the board for the Mids either.
In the final analysis, the Irishsimply went to the air, with quarterback Rick Mirer having a career day. It should be noted that most of the passing yardage came on third downs with sometimes nine and 10 yards to go for a first down, so Navy's defense was effective against the run.
The Mid pass defense must become at least adequate in the final three games, and this means that a pass rush is a must, in addition to shoring up what has beena porous secondary. It strains credulity in attempting to explain how easily the opposition can get clear so often over the middle and inthe flats.
The ball-handling and strong running of the offensive backfield led by James Kubiak, Duke Ingraham, Brad Stramanak, Vinnie Smith, Jason Van Matre and Billy James keeps improving, as attested by so many first downs against the Irish through a deceptive and balanced running attack.
The Navy effort last week was one to be proud of. They simply were beaten in this one by a team with too many guns.Chaump summed up his team's biggest weakness by saying, "When we learn how to play third-down defense we will win ballgames."
The winning could begin tomorrow night at the Superdome in New Orleans.
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 Blueand Gold" column appears every Friday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.