NEW ORLEANS -- They're 0-8 and eager to reduce the number of winless Division I-A teams from four to three, but the Midshipmen of Navy face a team on a similar mission when they take on Tulane tonight at 7 at the Louisiana Superdome.
Tulane enters the game 0-9 and, along with Navy, Oregon State (0-8) and Oklahoma State (0-7-1), is one of four I-A teams that have failed to win a game in 1991. By the time the Midshipmen hit Bourbon Street in the French Quarter tonight, they're hoping to have ended a nine-game losing streak dating back to the loss to Army in the 1990 season finale.
"All games are big, and all games you want to win," Navy coach George Chaump said. "What makes this interesting is they haven't won, and we haven't won. I go in hoping our team plays well in every game."
Chaump was not displeased with his team's performance last week against Notre Dame, despite the 38-0 score, the first time Navy had been shut out since the Irish blanked them, 41-0, in South Bend, Ind., two years ago.
Navy took five drives inside the Notre Dame 35-yard line, and drove as deep as the 13 in the second half. The Midshipmen moved the ball primarily with a ground attack that Chaump used to eat the clock against the fifth-ranked Irish.
"It was not a bad scheme," said Chaump. "We wouldn't hesitate to use it against anybody."
Which brings the question of who Chaump will start at quarterback. To run that ground scheme against Tulane, Jason Van Matre will be the man if his sprained left knee is better. But if a flaw is seen in the Green Wave secondary, plebe Jim Kubiak would start.
As he has done for the past three games, Chaump will keep Tulane in the dark about his quarterback until kickoff.
Navy also could find itself in the dark. Tulane coach Greg Davis has gone with two quarterbacks -- senior Jerome Woods and sophomore Billy Duncan -- for the past three games.
But look for Davis to dump his alternating plan after Woods passed for 322 yards (ninth best in Tulane history) against 16th-ranked East Carolina last week.
Woods' main target was wide receiver Wilbert Ursin, who caught 15 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Ursin set a school record, breaking the mark of 13 catches by Marc Zeno in 1985 against Louisiana State.
While Navy's losses have come against the likes of Ball State, Bowling Green, Delaware and William & Mary, Tulane's losses have come against the eighth-toughest schedule in the country -- including top-ranked Florida State, No. 8 Alabama and No. 17 Syracuse. It's an intangible that has Chaump worried.
"They've had a real rough schedule," Chaump said. "Right now, unfortunately for us, I think Tulane's a better club than they've ever been all season."
NOTES: Tulane has a 4-0-1 edge in the series. The teams last met in 1973, when Tulane won, 17-15, on the way to the Bluebonnet Bowl. . . . Navy MG Dan Pidgeon tore a ligament in his left knee and is out. . . . After scoring in 152 straight games, which was the fifth-longest active streak in I-A, Tulane has been shut out in 3 of its past 7 games. . . . Tulane has gone 278 straight games without a tie, the second-longest streak in NCAA history. Tomorrow will be the 25th anniversary of the last tie.