After 38-0 beating, Navy still upbeat Mids look ahead, see victories

September 12, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE VIRGINIA — CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Last year the margin of defeat in Navy's season opener against Virginia was 53 points. Yesterday, against the same team, it was 38.

But two lopsided shutout losses in two straight season openers have apparently had two different effects on the Navy football team.

When the final gun sounded yesterday, Navy was a 38-0 loser to Virginia before a crowd of 38,900 at Scott Stadium. But unlike last year, when the Midshipmen were demoralized, yesterday it was an upbeat Navy coach George Chaump and an upbeat group of players who spoke of good things to come.

No, Navy didn't take too many hard hits to the head in losing its season opener for the third straight season. But going against a Virginia team (2-0) that is clearly more talented, Navy discovered that it can do enough things right that will make the team competitive against the Tulanes, the Bowling Greens and the Colgates that make up much of the team's 1993 schedule.

"I talked to the team after, and I told them we were very proud of them," said Chaump, who hasn't had that many kinds of discussions with his team during the past two 1-10 seasons. "They did enough things well that, as coaches, we're encouraged that we're going to be a good football team. I think we're going to win a lot of games this year."

Win a lot of games? Up-tempo after a 38-0 loss? What gives?

You really had to be there -- for both Virginia-Navy games -- to understand.

A year ago, Virginia had a 49-yard scoring play on its first play on the way to a 33-0 halftime lead. Cavaliers quarterback Bobby Goodman passed for a school-record five touchdown passes. And Navy quarterback Jim Kubiak suffered a separated shoulder in the third quarter that knocked him out for the season.

Yesterday it was still a game at halftime. Navy's defense, despite the 38 points allowed, was not embarrassed. And Kubiak was able to survive his first contact in a season, and demonstrated enough skills that should make him a factor this season.

"We made a lot of individual breakdowns [yesterday], which are things that we can correct," said Navy tailback Jason Van Matre. "Plus we have a quarterback after this game. We're going to be all right."

One of those individual breakdowns -- a mental mistake -- happened in the second quarter, when Navy trailed 3-0. On a first-and-14 from the Virginia 49, Cavaliers tailback Kevin Brooks was stopped after a 4-yard gain. But Navy free safety Joe Speed was called for a late hit when he crashed into the pile -- a 15-yard penalty. On the next play, Virginia quarterback Symmion Willis hit Patrick Jeffers on a 31-yard scoring pass and the Cavaliers had a 10-0 lead with 8:56 left in the half.

Virginia scored on its next possession when Jeffers caught a 65-yard touchdown pass on a play in which Speed was caught coming upfield from his safety position.

"That was a blown coverage," Speed said. "When you blow a coverage, there's an opening."

Navy tried to respond on its next series. On first down from the Virginia 33, Van Matre broke loose down the right side on a counter play in which he appeared to score when hitting the pylon in the end zone. But the officials ruled that Virginia defensive back Percy Ellsworth had run Van Matre down on the 2-yard line. And four plays later -- after two rushes for losses and a fumbled snap -- Kubiak was intercepted in the end zone by Ellsworth.

"I thought, if anything, we'd be on the 1-inch line," Van Matre said of his long run. "When I saw the spot, I asked the official, but he didn't care what I had to say."

Navy's defense played strong during the first part of the second half, but things started to go downhill after Navy's Dave Gwinn missed a 22-yard field goal. Seven plays later, Willis, on an option run down the left side, raced 48 yards to the end zone for a 24-0 Virginia lead with 4:42 left in the third. The Cavaliers scored twice in the fourth quarter (a 9-yard run by Brooks and a 2-yard run by Darrell Medley) to close out the scoring.

"They gave us all we could handle, [but] you can only hang in there so long," said Virginia coach George Welsh, who coached Navy for nine seasons. "I thought they let down a little after Willis' touchdown. They didn't give up, but it's hard to come back from there."

Virginia benefited from a balanced attack, getting 222 yards on the ground and 205 yards through the air. Willis completed 10 of 20 passes and threw for the two touchdowns (he also had one interception), and Jeffers had four catches for 124 yards and the two touchdowns.

The Midshipmen were able to check Virginia fullback Charles Way (three touchdowns, 136 yards against Maryland), who rushed eight times for 24 yards.

"Our defense stopped them better than I ever dreamed we would," Chaump said. "They did a lot of things well as a unit. The score was not indicative of the game."

Navy, which failed on three scoring chances inside Virginia's 10 (the last with the clock running out) was limited to 216 yards in total offense.

"Not scoring, when you're down there, certainly is embarrassing," Chaump said. "We had a goose egg when we should have had 14 or 17 points. It's just difficult to open against a tough team like Virginia."

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