Navy's chances dwindle to precious 2 Mids look to Wake from winless dream

November 23, 1991|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- Towson State's done it. Morgan State's done it. Heck, Maryland has even done it twice.

Navy hasn't, and this afternoon it gets one of its two final chances to do it.

It is a win, and Navy (0-9) is the only state Division I team without a victory. Off to their worst start in school history, the Midshipmen will try to change course this afternoon (1:30 p.m.) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium when they play Wake Forest (2-8) in their last home game of the season.

The Midshipmen enter the game coming off their poorest performance of the season, a 34-7 loss at Tulane on Nov. 9. Chaump has spent the past two weeks attempting to shape a plan that could give the Midshipmen their first victory since beating Delaware, 31-27, Nov. 17 of last year.

"We're working hard, and we're preparing," said Chaump, who did not have much to say during his news conference this week. "The big thing is keeping the attitude of the players where it should be."

After the loss to Tulane, the big concern was the physical status of team. The most serious injury was to quarterback/tailback Jason Van Matre, who played briefly against Tulane and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Nov. 12. He's listed as probable today.

Also injured were tailback Vinnie Smith (groin), wide receiver B.J. Mason (shoulder), offensive guard Michael Davis (knee), linebacker Chris Beck (ankle), defensive back Chris Hart (groin) and defensive back Mark McGinnis (neck). Add the nagging knee injuries to fullback Brad Stramanak and tailback Duke Ingraham, and Chaump was extremely worried this time last week.

"If we had played last weekend, I don't know what we would have done," Chaump said. "But everybody's back for [today]."

If Navy is to have any shot at winning today, it must score points in the second half. Since the fourth game of the season against Bowling Green when Van Matre hit Tom Pritchard on a 37-yard touchdown pass, Navy has not scored after halftime (11 straight scoreless second-half quarters).

"We've scored first eight out of nine times, and we can't score in the second half," Chaump said. "That's one of the oddities in sports."

Another key to any Navy success will be to stop the Wake Forest passing game. While the Deacons have averaged just 14.3 points per game and have been held to 10 or fewer points six times, they do have one of the better receivers in the league in sophomore Todd Dixon (his six touchdowns and 19.3 yards per catch both rank second in the ACC).

Junior tight end John Henry Mills has an ACC-leading 47 catches and needs five today for the most catches by a tight end in school history. With Navy's pass rush and pass defense both having problems, that record might be reachable.

Playing in its final game of the season, Wake Forest coach Bill Dooley doesn't expect his team to be going through the motions, or looking past a team that has yet to win.

"This is certainly an important game because we want very much for our seniors to go out on a positive note and for our younger players to finish well," Dooley said. "It's a long time to have a losing taste in your mouth if you don't win that last one. I'm sure Navy wants to win very badly, too, and we'll have to match their emotion."

While Navy will have one last shot at winning when it faces Army on Dec. 7, Chaump said the best way to prepare for that big rivalry is to put forth a good effort today.

"I feel the best way to get ready for that game," Chaump said, "is to win this game."

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