Navy football will make up for slow start Future is bright despite injuries

NAVY BLUE AND GOLD

September 25, 1992|By Earl P. Schubert

It would be difficult at this time in the history of Navy football to contemplate a more serious challenge to its program than that faced by the young Mids at this moment.

Thrashed by two national top-25 teams in Virginia and Boston College and coming off of an unusual nine-day preparation period, Navy's future looks bleak indeed.

Tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. the Midshipmen face an up-and-coming Rutgers team, which just recently whipped the Pittsburgh Panthers, 21-16. Rutgers is no longer an Ivy League patsy.

It will be tough with Navy's No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks down, starting fullback Duke Ingraham suffering a sprained ankle, and defensive ends Robert Goodson and linebacker Javier Zuluaga doubtful with various sprains.

But a number of bright spots have emerged that give real hope for a turnaround in the play of the Mids in the near future.

One needs to look no further than the goal-line stand by the defense in the fourth quarter against Boston College when on Navy's 1-yard line the Eagles threw everything they had at the Mids and couldn't score.

Navy does not quit. Witness the big pass interceptions led by Chris Hart and Chad Chatlos in the middle of big drives by Boston College.

Or the offense, still behind by four touchdowns, charging back, practically the length of the field only to be stopped by penalties. Those errors are self-destructing.

Navy's biggest challenge, other than sustaining that fighting spirit, is to find the right quarterback to carry on the offense.

Senior Steve Slone replaced the injured Brian Ellis last Saturday and went 2-for-5 in passing with two interceptions. A strong-armed thrower, he has been waiting for his opportunity for four years. A sophomore with an outstanding high school record in California, Tony Solliday is in the wings along with freshman Eddie Buckles.

Navy is set with at least two good runners in Jason Van Metre and Billy James, exceptional receivers in Kevin Hickman and Tom Pritchard, and a big offensive line headed by 283-pounder Max Lane at tackle, and similar-sized linemen in Steve Palmer, Dan Pidgeon, Greg Hubbard and Blair Sokal.

Bob Kuberski at defensive tackle still leads a lighter-than-normal defensive line, which also features a freshman in left end Andy Person at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. Veterans Chris Beck, Javier Zuluaga, Chad Chatlos and Chris Hart have strengthened the defensive secondary considerably.

What can be expected from a real-hot Rutgers ballclub from Piscataway, N.J., coached by Doug Graber, which crushed Colgate, edged Pittsburgh and lost to Boston College in their opener, 36-20?

Again the Mids run into a super quarterback in Brian Fortay who picked Pittsburgh apart on national television last week. To date, he has completed 53-of-67 passes, a .791 percentage, for 464 yards and five touchdowns.

He throws almost entirely wide right and left and seldom down the middle. This is a habit certain to have been recorded in the Mids' scouting book. He is a transfer from Miami University, who is joined by other transfers such as wide receiver Mario Henry from South Carolina and tackle Scott Vaughn from Clemson.

In sum, this is a big, fast Rutgers ballclub on its way up in the Big East, which fortunately misses Miami this year, but is in a class with Syracuse, VPI and West Virginia.

Does Navy have a chance in tomorrow's 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Navy-Marine Corps stadium?

Yes, with a traditional great Navy all-out effort.

Get there early for the parade and the dedication of the game in honor of those missing in action and prisoners of war.

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