Without a big-play player, Navy rolls out a game plan Van Matre may start again at QB

October 01, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

Navy coach George Chaump was saying yesterday that "big plays are made by big-play people" when the inevitable question was asked:

Do the struggling Midshipmen, looking to avoid their fourth straightshutout at North Carolina on Satur day, have any big-play people?

Chaump paused. "We're not prepared to make the big plays," he said. "We have young people who are just not experienced."

The lack of big plays for the winless (0-3) and scoreless (0-121) and nearly quarterback-less (four injuries) Midshipmen is clear when one compares offensive plays for Navy and its opponents: In three games Navy has four offensive plays covering more than 20 yards, and its opponents have 16.

"You win on offense with big plays and your big play-makers are running backs and quarterbacks," Chaump said. "You need some great talent to overcome a lot of this."

The main problem has been at quarterback, a position where Navy lost two more players to injuries in the 40-0 loss to Rutgers last week. But look for the Midshipmen to demonstrate their version of continuity at the position if Jason Van Matre, who was knocked out of the Rutgers game with a hip pointer and is listed as doubtful, starts Saturday at Chapel Hill. Van Matre would be the first Navy quarterback to start two games this season.

"As far as I know that's who we're going with," said Navy wide receiver Tom Pritchard, about Van Matre. "He's been at practice, and Jason's ready to go."

Even if Van Matre starts, his presence may not be enough to kick into gear an offense that has been stuck in neutral. Against Rutgers, Navy's longest play from scrimmage was a pass that covered 13 yards and the longest running play was an 8-yard gain by sophomore Rob Edwards, who played in his first varsity game last week and is the starting tailback because of injuries.

"In the backfield we probably have as big a problem -- or more problems -- than at quarterback," said Chaump, who is without his topfour returning running backs from last season. "What we're trying to do is find something we can do in revamping our offense."

And that has meant players shifting from a style of play that was drilled into their heads from spring ball to the first game of the season. With Jim Kubiak (dislocated shoulder), Navy had a quarterback who stayed in the pocket and had the potential to throw deep. In Van Matre, Navy has to adjust to a quarterback who rolls out and throws mostly short passes.

"With Kubiak, he could really read the defense and the communication between quarterback and receivers was good," said Pritchard, the team's leading receiver with 11 receptions for 133 yards.

"Now we have to simplify our offense and run more controlled routes so Jason can get the ball in our hands."

Tough times

In getting shut out in its first three games, Navy is off to its worst start since 1928, when it opened with losses to Davis & Elkins (2-0), Boston College (6-0) and Notre Dame (7-0). Reasons for Navy's slow start are plentiful:

* Tough luck: Four quarterbacks have been knocked out of games -- Jim Kubiak (separated shoulder), Brian Ellis (broken jaw), Jason Van Matre (hip pointer) and Steve Seoane (separated shoulder).

* Tough vacancies: The four returning running backs are gone -- Van Matre (now at quarterback), Duke Ingraham (knee sprain, arthroscopic surgery yesterday), Bill James (separated shoulder, out three or four weeks) and Brad Stramanak (reconstructive knee surgery).

* Tough schedule: Navy's schedule to date is 12th toughest in the nation, according to this week's Sagarin computer rankings in USA Today.

* Tough rushers: Six of the current top 10 rushing teams are on Navy's schedule -- Notre Dame, Air Force, Boston College, Army, Virginia and North Carolina.

* Tough passers: Three opposing passers are ranked among the top 20 in passing efficiency -- Bobby Goodman of Virginia, Glenn Foley of Boston College and Rick Mirer of Notre Dame.

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