Mids' Quest For A Win Turns Into More Of A Nightmare

NAVY BLUE AND GOLD

But Depth Of Talent Offers Hope For Future

November 15, 1991|By Earl P. Schubert

After a spirited and well-executed 71-yard drive in 10 plays for another quick lead, the Navy football team succumbed to the Tulane GreenWave, 34-7, Saturday.

So much for obtaining the first win of the season.

Opportunities for one are running out. Wake Forest, 31-14 conquerors of Duke last week, comes in next Saturday for the Mids' final home game. Two weeks later, Navy meets Army in Philadelphia.

It's nota comforting forecast, with the pride and rejuvenation of this team and its coaches being truly tested.

Quite a lot has been said comparing the record of this year's Navy team with Coach George Sauer's 1948 0-8-1 team. It's interesting to note that the 1948 Mids lost to the likes of California, Duke, Missouri, Notre Dame and Michigan when those teams were having winning years.

Yet, somehow Navy rose to unbelievable heights in tying undefeated Army, 21-21, in the final game. Co-captained by the great punt return specialist Pete Williams, the Mids were on Army's 3-yard line when the game ended.

If the present team ever needed an inspirational model to follow in completing alosing season, they could look no further than the performance of the 1948 ballclub.

The proud tradition of Naval Academy football is well-earned. Few colleges and universities can boast of such tradition over the past 100 years. But when a losing cycle develops, old-timers will tell you that it happens at times.

From Coach Tom Hamilton's Mids in 1946 through Sauer's two-year term to Eddie Erdalatz's first two years at the helm, Navy went a horrendous 10-40-4, winning only one game each in 1946 and 1947.

But over the next seven years. Navy was back in the headlines with a 45-14-7 record under Erdalatz, with Sugar and Cotton bowl appearances.

There is little question that this season, which began so hopefully, has been somewhat of a nightmare. The team never really has come together as a complete unit, offensively or defensively. Loose ends have handicapped strategy. Critical turnovers and basic mistakes at terribly inopportune times have hurt winning drives and defensive stands. And continuing position changes have appeared to fracture any sense of continuity.

In short, it seems that the team never has really found itself. The extraordinary Navy spirit and individual courage of every team member continues to be the highlight of the disappointing season.

The performances of freshmen like James Kubiak, Tom Pritchard, Kevin Hickman, Bill Bensch and Tim Rogers on offense and Chris Hart on defense have been justshort of a spectacular development.

Added to the 13 sophomores now listed on the Navy depth chart, one easily can imagine an exceptionally solid corps of returning lettermen in a year to support the junior class of Duke Ingraham, Bob Kuberski, Bob Goodson, Mark Ellis, Chris Beck, Chad Chatlos and Mark McGinnis.

Those supporters who journeyed out to Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in the cold last Saturday wererewarded with a rousing football game between Navy's junior varsity and Montgomery County Junior College.

Coach Van Hutzen's 11 playedto a 20-20 tie, with fullback Dave Osaba scoring twice from 4 yards and 1 yard, respectively, and defensive back Andre Coleman carrying apass interception in from 35 yards. Dave Gwinn and Dean Costillo added two extra points.

Up at West Point last week, the Navy lightweights completed an undefeated season (5-0-1) by coming from 13 points behind in the final quarter to tie archrival Army, 20-20. The game also assured the Mids of a tie with the Cadets for the championship of the Eastern Lightweight Football League.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Kirby's passes to Tom Daily, Ed Peyton and Todd Rampey featured theoffense of Coach Gene Balley, with Rampey bolting in for the last score in the final three minutes. The tie broke Army's 15-game winning streak.

Much has been said and written concerning the failure of this year's varsity football program.

The lack of winning games to date can be narrowed down to two or three rather elementary but significantly critical factors. First, Navy's erratic defense against the pass has simply destroyed it time and time again when the team performance was at a high level. Just last week, for example, Tulane did not roll over Navy on the ground.

A comparatively new quarterback, Jerome Woods, simply threw for 272 yards to freshman and sophomore ends when the Green Wave could not move effectively on the ground. Pass defense is the most difficult aspect of football to teach and coach, but still some improvement during the season should have been forthcoming. And don't blame it all on the secondary, as the pass rush was less than noteworthy.

Secondly, Coach George Chaump's initial game plans, particularly in fashioning new offensive wrinkles, were at times brilliant. The opposition was confused time and again, resulting in early Navy scores. But the opposing team's adjustments caught up with these new looks, and Navy, in essence, did not have the firepower necessary to overcome the adjustments.

Finally, this year's overall schedule was not an easy or "watered down" one. Virginia and Notre Dame are ranked nationally. Air Force is going to a bowl. Delaware isin reality a national Division I-A power, with some polls putting itat the top of the rankings. Bowling Green, a Division I-A school, has won the tough Mid-American Conference title, with Ball State not far behind.

William and Mary, a leading independent I-AA, has not been a pushover for anyone. Tulane and Temple play the best in the nation and have no fears of the winless 1991 Navy team.

The final two games should prove very interesting.

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.

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