Rested Navy takes on Delaware, home hex I-AA Blue Hens present tough task

October 24, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

Here's the scenario: Navy is winless and coming off a much-needed week off following a loss to Air Force. For homecoming, the Midshipmen will face a nationally ranked, once-beaten Delaware team that is coming off a huge victory over previously unbeaten Division I-AA powerhouse Villanova.

Sound familiar?

It should, because when Navy (0-5) meets Delaware (5-1, No. 7 in the Division I-AA polls) at 1:30 p.m. today at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the teams will be playing under nearly identical circumstances as their meeting a year ago.

Then, Navy entered the game 0-6 and built a 25-7 halftime lead. But the Blue Hens scored 22 points behind the 11-for-11 second-half passing of quarterback Bill Vergantino for a 29-25 victory. Delaware improved to 7-0, and a Navy homecoming crowd of 30,490 left unhappily.

The fans should be used to it because Navy hasn't won its homecoming game since 1988 (with the three straight losses coming to Division I-AA teams). The Midshipmen also have lost eight straight games at home since a 31-27 win over Delaware in 1990. In addition to those troubles, the Mids will have the hidden pressure of facing the only I-AA team on their schedule this season.

"That's the bad thing about it -- everyone's saying that since we're playing a I-AA team that we have to win over Delaware," said Navy quarterback Jason Van Matre. "Delaware's a good team. They're the same as a I-A team, with the exception of 10 fewer scholarships. I don't think they're going to be different than any of the team's we've faced this season."

Navy isn't the same awful team that was shut out in its first three games. In its past two games, Navy has improved to the point where it had a shot at winning in the fourth quarter. But those games, against North Carolina and Air Force, were on the road, where Navy, in the past two seasons, has been far more productive than at home.

"I can't remember the last time we played well at home," said Van Matre, whose team has surrendered 114 more points in eight home games than in eight road games over two seasons. "We just tend to play better on the road."

Unfortunately for Navy, so does Delaware. The Blue Hens are looking to tie the school record of nine consecutive road victories (their last road loss was the 1990 season-ending defeat to Navy). The 21-20 win last week was at Villanova, which was ranked No. 2 in the I-AA polls.

The Blue Hens can credit much of their success to Vergantino, a four-year starter who has mastered coach Tubby Raymond's wing-T offense. This season Vergantino has thrown nine touchdown passes, rushed for seven touchdowns and -- already with 16 school records -- is continuing to rewrite the Delaware record books.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks we've ever had," said Raymond, who has coached Jeff Komlo, Scott Brunner and Rich Gannon -- all of whom have started as quarterbacks in the NFL. "He's probably more effective in our offense than Gannon [the current Minnesota Vikings starter] was. He's an excellent competitor and has a great deal of poise."

Vergantino has been a big reason why Delaware has scored 20 or more points in 21 straight games since a 17-10 loss at Maine in 1990. Delaware is averaging 32.7 points this season.

"But we haven't had to play North Carolina, Rutgers and Virginia," Raymond said, mentioning several Navy opponents. "Our offense is experienced and we have some good players who have some idea what they're doing."

Which should make today's game anything but easy for Navy. Coach George Chaump is refusing to call it a must-win game. But when you're 0-5 and playing a I-AA team, this is about as close to a must-win game as a team can get.

"I don't think there's any additional pressure," Chaump said. "You always play to win. And I'd like to see some good wins come along real soon."

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