The University of Virginia does not appear on the Naval Academy's football schedule through the year 2002, and for that alone the Midshipmen and their loyal supporters can be eternally grateful.
This historic series that began in 1889 has been dominated by the Cavaliers in recent years, with last night's 47-10 romp over the Mids before 25,469 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium all too typical.
Over the past five games, Virginia has outscored Navy 211-34. It is made all the more painful since former Navy coach George Welsh, who also quarterbacked "The Team Called Desire" that beat Mississippi in the 1955 Sugar Bowl, has been overseeing these beatings of his alma mater.
The fact that the Cavaliers' starting quarterback, Symmion Willis, was rested with a pulled hamstring hardly helped even matters. His replacement, junior Mike Groh, completed 26 of 35 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns -- all to senior wide receiver Tyrone Davis.
Groh, whose father is an assistant coach with the New England (( Patriots, also ran for a touchdown.
For Virginia, it was a dramatic turnaround from an opening-game 41-17 defeat to defending national champion Florida State. For Navy, it was a seventh straight loss, including last Saturday's 56-14 drubbing by San Diego State.
The firing last week of offensive coordinator Greg Briner failed to bring any positive results. Senior quarterback Jim Kubiak threw an Academy record 55 passes. He completed 25 for 298 yards, but could not produce a touchdown through the air. Navy's points came on a 36-yard field goal by Ryan Bucchianeri in the second quarter and a one-yard run by fullback Monty Williams in the closing seconds.
If Navy had any chance of making this game competitive, it ended on a bizarre sequence of plays just before the first half ended.
Trailing 13-3, Navy gained possession on its 1-yard line following a perfectly-placed 39-yard punt by Will Brice.
Rather than playing it safe, Kubiak attempted two passes out of his end zone. His second pass bounced off the leg of wingback Mike Jefferson and into the arms of linebacker Jamie Sharper on the Navy 14. Three plays later, Groh found Davis with the first of his three touchdown passes to give Virginia a 20-3 cushion at halftime.
"The coach [George Chaump] called the play," said Kubiak. "And it would have worked if Jefferson had been looking for the ball."
Chaump defended the strategy.
"Virginia had two timeouts left, and we didn't want to have to punt out of our end zone," he said.
"We said before the game that we weren't going to hold back, that we'd play to win. Yes, the score was lopsided, but I'm still proud of our effort. We just let them off the hook on too many third-down situations.
"It's tough starting the year against two strong teams, but if our kids maintain this kind of spirit and we work harder, we'll get better and win some games."
It was the freak interception just before the half, a blocked punt by Virginia and a 74-yard kick return by Tiki Barber late in the third quarter that turned the game into a rout.
"Frankly, I'd have been happy walking out of here with a 17-14 win," said Welsh. "I had some serious concerns going into this game. Groh had never started before, and we were pretty banged up after Florida State."
But Groh showed unusual poise and completed passes to eight different receivers.
"They stuffed our running game too many times," said Welsh, "but the way they defended us made them vulnerable to the pass."
In the aftermath, Chaump, now 0-5 against Welsh, was asked if he would have liked to continue the Virginia series.
"I'm kind of sorry to see it end," he said. "It's like a neighborhood rivalry, and these things tend to go in cycles [Navy leads the series 27-11]. And I'd like to think that we're making progress."
Saturday could be a true indication of where they're heading when the Mids step down in class to tackle Bowling Green on the road.
NEXT FOR NAVY
` Who: Bowling Green
When: Saturday, at Bowling Green.
Yesterday: Beat Akron, 45-0