Navy reeling after third shutout loss 40-0 Rutgers rout costs 2 more QBs

September 27, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- It was several minutes after the end of his post-game press conference when Navy coach George Chaump still seated with a stunned look on his face -- quietly asked a question of a longtime Navy beat writer.

"How many years have you been doing this?" Chaump asked. The answer was 20 years.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?"

The "this" Chaump was referring to was the loss of two more quarterbacks to injuries during yesterday's 40-0 loss to Rutgers before a crowd of 25,321 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

It was Navy's third straight shutout, marking the first time in 74 years the Midshipmen have gone scoreless in their first three games.

The latest casualties of the "Battered Quarterback Syndrome" were Jason Van Matre and Steve Seoane. Van Matre, the team's starting tailback until yesterday, suffered a severe hip pointer at the end of the first half and did not return. Seoane, who filled in last week when a broken jaw felled Brian Ellis (who was filling in for the injured Jim Kubiak), suffered a separated shoulder while trying to make a tackle after throwing a fourth-quarter interception. He was replaced by Tony Solliday.

For those scoring at home, Navy has used five quarterbacks in three games. "I thought [losing] two quarterbacks in two games was ridiculous, but now we have four in three games," Chaump said. "That must be a world record."

If the quarterback situation wasn't bad enough, Navy lost another tailback when Billy James tore ligaments in his shoulder on his first carry of the game. With Duke Ingraham (severe knee injury) already out for the season and the possibility of Van Matre either missing action with his injury or remaining the starting quarterback, Navy may be going with its fourth tailback next week at North Carolina.

"I don't know what we're going to do," Chaump said.

Somehow Navy's going to have to find a way to put points on the board, something that didn't happen yesterday as the Midshipmen finished their third straight game without ending a drive inside their opponent's 30-yard line.

"The game's won by individuals who have the capability of making big plays," Chaump said. "We haven't been getting that and therefore our mistakes are magnified."

Rutgers got its first big play late in the second quarter when senior running back Craig Mitter scored the first of his three touchdowns from 20 yards out to give Rutgers a 10-0 lead with 1:29 left in the half.

The turning point of the game came four plays later when Van Matre, dropping back to pass on first-and-10 from the Navy 23, fumbled as he was hit by Rutgers defensive tackle Roger Jeffries and defensive end Keif Bryant. Linebacker Shawn Williams picked up the loose ball and ran 7 yards for a Rutgers touchdown with 47 seconds left in the half.

"I thought he was throwing the ball and I question whether that was a fumble," Chaump said. "Jason said his arm was going forward. But [the officials] didn't see it that way."

"I have to say that Navy played very hard, but they're really hurting," said Rutgers coach Doug Graber, who won just his second road game in this, his third season at Rutgers. "If we lost our first three quarterbacks. . . ."

Graber has the good fortune of having two talented quarterbacks and may have to make some tough choices about his starter in the upcoming weeks. When Bryan Fortay, a transfer from Miami, struggled early he was replaced in the first quarter by freshman Ray Lucas (10 of 13 for 141 yards), who ignited the offense. Fortay came back into the game in the second half, but was unhappy with being yanked.

"I was definitely surprised I was taken out midway through the first quarter," said Fortay, who completed six of 11 passes for 96 yards. "I never expected that to happen. I don't feel like I got a chance."

No such luxury at Navy. If Van Matre's hip doesn't respond this week, the start next week will probably go to Seoane, who completed just six of 16 passes for 59 yards and threw two interceptions.

"We're asking ourselves what's wrong," Seoane said. "Coach Chaump has scored points wherever he's been and he's known as an offensive coach.

"We have the plays, but we're just not executing," Seoane added. "We're frustrated, but it's not going to last a lot longer."

That remains to be seen. The Midshipmen hobble into Chapel Hill, N.C., next week against the 3-1 Tar Heels. One has to wonder what effect three embarrassing defeats will have on a team that figured to turn things around this season.

"There's a lot of football left this year. Our biggest challenge is to keep the team together," Chaump said. "We're going to have to work our way through it. I told the players we have to do our best. It won't always show on the scoreboard, but we have to continue to do our best."

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