Navy's new look puts Virginia on alert Mids open season with 5-back defense

September 12, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Having an advantage is a rarity for the Navy football team, but the Midshipmen will have the element of surprise on their side tonight in their season opener against No. 23 Virginia.

Will the Midshipmen go all the way with sophomore quarterback Jim Kubiak, or use multipurpose back Jason Van Matre at quarterback in some situations? And what changes are in store with the defense under new coordinator Greg McMackin? Those are the uncertainties that have had the Virginia coaching staff worried all week in preparing for Navy.

"It makes us split our practice time," said Virginia defensive coordinator Rick Lantz. "We're just not sure what people are going to do."

Expect the unexpected from Navy coach George Chaump, who rotated Kubiak and Van Matre in last year's season-ending 24-3 win over Army. But expect Chaump to stick this season with Kubiak, whose strong arm finally allows Chaump to install the balanced attack he has longed for since arriving at Navy.

Kubiak ended the season on a high note, completing 70 percent of his passes in Navy's last two games. He'll have talented receivers to throw to in sophomore split end Tom Pritchard (35 catches, 569 yards, two touchdowns) and tight end Kevin Hickman (16 catches, 167 yards in starting the final five games), but the rest of the receiving corps is unproven.

There may be considerable inexperience on Navy's defense, with three projected starters doubtful for tonight's game. All-East defensive tackle Bob Kuberski (pulled hamstring) and defensive ends Robert Goodson (lacerated cornea) and David Shaw (recovering from broken foot) may have to sit out, taking leadership away from a defensive unit that will have six freshmen in starting or backup roles.

"We can't afford injuries because if we have starters getting hurt, our inexperience will really show," Chaump said. "We're still very young. We're growing up, and growing up fast."

Chaump is pleased with the changes the defense -- this year using five defensive backs -- has undergone.

"It's an aggressive defense, and if you play aggressive you're prone to give up the big play," Chaump said. "That's what we have to guard against in our quest to be more aggressive."

Unfortunately for Navy, the quest to be more aggressive will come against one of its toughest schedules in years.

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