There's this informal comedy group at the Naval Academy TTC known as the Eighth Wing Players. In a recent skit they dressed as Navy football players. "You play quarterback, you play quarterback," they all cried, pointing to one another.
Funny guys, those Midshipmen, but yesterday Navy coach George Chaump wasn't laughing. At his weekly news conference, he acknowledged the possibility of using freshman Eddie Buckles as his sixth quarterback and defensive back Kevin Smart as his seventh.
Chaump also revealed that fifth-string tailback Rob Edwards is nursing a sore ankle, miraculously creating spots on the depth chart for 5-foot-5 junior Jeff Williams, plebe Monty Williams, everyone but Vanessa Williams.
No. 1 tailback Jason Van Matre?
If available, he'll start at quarterback.
No wonder this team has been outscored 121-0 in three games -- and we haven't even mentioned its brutal schedule, rated the 12th toughest in the country in the latest Sagarin computer rankings.
Talk about a double whammy.
Navy's first three opponents -- Virginia, Boston College and Rutgers -- are a combined 11-1. For comparison's sake, No. 8 Penn State's first four victims -- Cincinnati, Temple, Eastern Michigan and Maryland -- are a combined 1-14.
Athletic director Jack Lengyel tried to make the schedule easier when he dropped Syracuse and Pitt four years ago. It's just Navy's luck that Virginia improved to the point where it now scores 50 points a game, and Rutgers to the point where it now beats Pitt.
To think, the Middies were utterly convinced they'd improve on last year's 1-10 record. Now they're wondering if their entire season will be pointless.
It doesn't get any easier this week, not at North Carolina (3-1). Never mind that the Tar Heels will play without three starters in their secondary. Navy's top four quarterbacks and top five tailbacks are still in various states of disrepair.
Two of the quarterbacks (Jim Kubiak and Steve Seoane) dislocated shoulders attempting tackles after interceptions. A third (Brian Ellis) got his jaw broken by the foot of a player blocked into him. The fourth (Van Matre) suffered a hip pointer under a heavy rush.
The situation is impossible, yet all Chaump can do is revamp his passing offense and try again. Navy's biggest play in last Saturday's 40-0 loss to Rutgers was a 12-yard pass. No run went longer than 8 yards. As Chaump says, "We have to block everyone perfect to make a 5-yard play."
The Midshipmen have yet to even attempt a field goal.
Chaump is now 6-19 since arriving from Marshall three years ago, and Navy has been shut out three straight games for the first time since 1932. Obviously, none of this is his fault. Nowhere in his contract does it state he must win with the JV.
This is a coach who had a .736 winning percentage at his previous high school and college jobs. A coach who was so popular at Marshall, one booster promised him the mayor's seat and his name on the new stadium if he rejected Navy and finished his career in Huntington, W. Va.
Lengyel hasn't changed his opinion any, and he'll judge Chaump only after two more recruiting classes. "These are things you've got to play through," Lengyel said. "These are the cards you're dealt. We will not fold our tent. We will work to bring this back. I'm confident he's the coach to do it."
Don't forget, Navy lost its first 10 games last year before defeating Army with an innovative offensive scheme in its finale. Chaump used two quarterbacks, the plebe Kubiak in his fifth start, and Van Matre inside the Army 30. Everyone viewed the 24-3 victory as a takeoff point.
That perception only grew with the addition of defensive coordinator Greg McMackin, the man who made Utah the top defensive team in the pass-happy WAC. Chaump built his offense around Kubiak, who completed 61 percent of his passes last season. Improvement was inevitable, or so he thought.
"I've been a lucky coach," he said yesterday. "Maybe this is what I deserve. I've been luckier than any coach in America. I've had my share of glory. I always felt for a coach who wasn't lucky, and wondered what it was like.
"It took a long time for it to catch up. But in my coaching life, my ego has been more than satisfied. I've never had something like this happen. I'm not glad it happened. Certainly, I take it as a challenge. Certainly, I'm not going to wilt."
At times, he turned downright philosophical, wondering aloud if No. 2 Miami's coaches would trade that ranking to recover their homes destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, invoking U.S. Naval history as evidence of his own team's ability to bounce back.
It might not happen this year, for even the lightweights on the schedule look tough -- Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss, Rice features Heisman Trophy candidate Trevor Cobb, and on and on. But the attitude is good, Chaump and his staff are working until midnight -- 90 minutes later than last year.
"It sounds impossible, but you really try harder," he said. "The more you lose, the better coaching job you do."
If that's the case, Chaump is due to win a national championship.
Presuming Navy ever scores.