Mids shouldn't overlook Bowling Green

NAVY FOOTBALL

September 24, 1993|By EARL SCHUBERT

Navy football enthusiasts look forward to visits to Annapolis later this season by the Air Force Academy, a traditional rival for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, and Southern Methodist University, an old nemesis from the Southwest Conference, who the Mids first played in 1930 and have defeated once in six games.

They may be overlooking one of the most interesting games of the season when Bowling Green comes to town tomorrow for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

Coach Gary Blackney's two-year record with the Falcons is 21-3. Bowling Green has won the Division I-A Mid-American Conference title the past two years, going undefeated in conference play. The Falcons defeated San Jose State in California's 1991 Raisin Bowl, and the University of Nevada in last year's Las Vegas Bowl.

The Mid-American Conference has the misfortune of being located smack in the middle of the better-known Big Ten Conference.

Still the Mid-American has made progress. Central Michigan has beaten Michigan State the past two years, and Toledo has done the same against Purdue.

Runner-up Ball State ventured into the Atlantic Coast Conference's Death Valley at powerful Clemson last year and was edged on turnovers in the fourth period.

So much for a potential homecoming breather for the Mids tomorrow.

Earlier this year Bowling Green defeated the University of Cincinnati after dropping a close one on the road at Virginia Tech, who is favored over Maryland tomorrow.

A possible turnaround in Naval Academy football fortunes occurred last Saturday night with an impressive victory over Eastern Illinois from the Gateway Conference.

After sputtering in the first quarter and falling behind 3-0, the Mids unleashed a running and passing attack that eventually beat down the Panthers, 31-10.

Navy quarterback Jim Kubiak stopped forcing passes into a crowded secondary after being intercepted by Panthers linebacker Tim Carver in the first quarter. Kubiak finished with 18 completions in 37 attempts.

With aggressive offensive-line play by Max Lane, Chuck Puglia, Blair Sokol and Dan Pidgeon, Zach McMechan and Jim Mill, fullback Brad Stramanak was able to average 5.8 yards per carry and score three touchdowns, sore knee and all.

In addition, co-captain Jason Van Matre and fellow halfback Billy James ran for 48 and 24 yards, respectively.

Led by co-captain Javier Zuluaga at linebacker and particularly aided by David Shaw, the Mids' defense against the run was superb, holding the visitors to 90 yards on the ground.

The chink in Bowling Green's armor this year is the loss through graduation of quarterback Erik White, a two-time MAC Most Valuable Player. White headed a strong backfield with LeRoy Smith at fullback. Its quarterback situation remains unsettled, with freshmen Mark Dunaway and Derek Kidwell vying for the starting role.

In addition, the defensive secondary led by the "Killer B's" in Carlos Brooks, Ken Burress, Dave Bielinski and Joe Blair also graduated.

Bowling Green still will play a veteran line on both sides of the ball, led by 290-pound offensive tackle Norman Hammond. The Falcons will outweigh the Mids by 15-20 pounds per man. Bowling Green edged the Mids in 1991, 22-19, in their only previous meeting. A Navy victory tomorrow against such a respected opponent (especially in the Midwest) could trigger one of the best Navy efforts since George Welsh's 7-4-1 squad that went to the Liberty Bowl in 1981.

Navy goes to New Orleans next week to take on Tulane.

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