Navy puts on air show, but gets grounded by Wake Plebe QB sets mark in 52-24 defeat

November 24, 1991|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- It's gotten so bad at the Naval Academy that even on an afternoon when quarterback Jim Kubiak gave fans something positive to talk about, the team still managed to lose -- and badly.

Wake Forest -- the team that lost to Appalachian State earlier this season -- exploded for 31 points in just more than 10 minutes in the second and third quarters to defeat the winless Midshipmen, 52-24, before 22,276 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The loss dropped Navy to 0-10, and spoiled a career day by Kubiak, whose 406 yards passing established a Navy record (Bill Byrne had 399 yards against Syracuse in 1985), and whose 36 completions fell one short of the school record (37, by Byrne in the Syracuse game -- a 24-20 Navy loss). Kubiak, a plebe making his fourth start, had thrown for 394 yards total going into the game.

"I had no idea about the record until they announced it," said Kubiak, whose 54 pass attempts were also a record. "I guess you try to pick good things out of every loss, and, in a way, I feel good. But I feel pretty darn bad, because we should have sent our seniors out with a win."

Instead, the seniors walked away from their last home game unhappy about a team effort that allowed Wake Forest -- which had scored 10 or fewer points on six occasions this season -- to record its highest total since beating Army, 52-14, in the fourth game of 1990. The Demon Deacons did their damage efficiently, with none of their seven touchdown drives taking more than five minutes (two scores came on one play -- a 77-yard interception return in the second quarter and an 86-yard punt return in the third).

"It was just big-play talent performing well," Navy coach George Chaump said. "That is essentially what this game was."

Navy scored first, on Billy James' 4-yard touchdown run less nTC than four minutes into the game. After Wake Forest tailback Anthony Williams capped a 65-yard drive with a 1-yard run to tie the game, 7-7, Navy came right back, as Kubiak threw 30 yards to Tom Pritchard (eight catches, 139 yards) for his first scoring pass of the season and a 14-7 lead.

Even Navy's often-victimized defense began to play big, stopping Wake Forest on its next three series -- including a fourth-and-two at the Navy 5. But, as halftime neared, the Wake Forest onslaught began.

First, a 46-yard pass from Wake Forest quarterback Keith West to Bobby Jones set up a 1-yard touchdown pass two plays later to John Henry Mills to tie the game at 14 with 2:39 left.

Then, five plays later, with Navy driving, Kubiak was intercepted by defensive back Gleen Hart, who returned it 77 yards for a score and a 21-14 lead with 1:50 left in the half.

"That 77-yard interception right before halftime was a big play to knock the wind out of Navy's sail," said Wake Forest coach Bill Dooley. "We definitely made the big plays."

And it wasn't over. Five plays into the third quarter, West hit a wide-open Todd Dixon on a 38-yard scoring pass to make it 28-14. And, four plays later, punt returner George Coghill somehow ran through seven Navy players just after he caught the ball on his way to an 86-yard touchdown.

By quarter's end, the Demon Deacons had a 45-17 lead on the way to an easy victory.

"When you work hard and see your effort go down the drain in such little time, you wonder 'What do you have to do?' " Kubiak said. "It was very frustrating."

And very discouraging for a team that will play its biggest game of the season against Army in Philadelphia on Dec. 7. In two straight games against teams with a combined 2-18 record going in, Navy has been outscored, 86-31.

"Although the score was 52-24, our 24 points were hard-earned, and their 52 were easy," Chaump said. "In the end, we just couldn't keep up with some of their good effort."

And Chaump can only hope for a good effort on Dec. 7, when Navy might become the first 0-10 team to appear on national television. One thing he is hoping he can count on is a strong performance from his record-setting quarterback.

"To throw more yards than anyone -- and to do it as a plebe -- that's outstanding," Chaump said of Kubiak. "Maybe this is something bright we can smile about before the Army game."

NOTES: It was the 11th straight loss for Navy, dating back to the loss to Army in the last game of 1990. Should they lose the season finale against Army, the Midshipmen would be 1 shy of the school-record 13 straight losses spanning the 1946 and 1947 seasons. . . . With Oregon State winning yesterday, the Midshipmen are 1 of 2 Division I-A teams without a win (Oklahoma State is the other). . . . Former Buffalo Bills QB (and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) Jack Kemp was at the game, and got to see his son Jim Kemp throw a 54-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

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