Navy no match for Air Force's offense in 43-21 loss

October 09, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Two years ago, coach George Chaump and his Naval Academy football team left Falcon Field convinced they had been cheated out of an apparent victory when an Air Force fumble went unnoticed by the officials in the closing minutes with the Midshipmen clinging to a one-point lead.

But yesterday, on a crystal clear afternoon, there was no room for protest. Not even a whimper.

With senior quarterback Preston McConnell flawlessly executing the wishbone offense, Air Force routed Navy, 43-21, before 43,712.

McConnell, who wrested the starting job from incumbent Desmond Cash, ran for two touchdowns and teamed with junior halfback Jake Campbell for a 49-yard scoring pitch to trigger the lopsided victory.

Two long fourth-quarter touchdown drives by the Midshipmen against Falcons reserves made the final margin misleading. A far more revealing statistic found Navy being held to minus 6 yards rushing while the Falcons gained 276 yards on the ground.

Last fall in Annapolis, when Navy ended 11 years of frustration with a 28-24 victory, Air Force, under Cash's direction, was a one-dimensional running team. But yesterday, Navy could defend neither the pass nor the pitch.

These are clearly two academy teams heading in opposite directions. The Falcons (3-3), with a revived passing game and a trio of elusive running backs in Campbell, Nakia Addison and Jeremy Johnson, won their third straight game.

Conversely, the Mids (0-5) are in full dive. They have lost 10 straight, dating to a 31-3 victory last October over 1-AA Colgate.

This season, the collapse has been complete. They have allowed the opposition an average of 50.4 points and a staggering 2,347 yards. And the average margin of victory has been 34.4 points, leaving no room for excuses.

Once again yesterday, Navy managed to sabotage itself. Two third-quarter fumbles by plebe tailback Patrick McGrew and senior quarterback Jim Kubiak led to Air Force touchdowns that broke the game open.

Navy has committed 11 turnovers this season, leading to 10 touchdowns.

As they did last week against Duke, the Mids kept it respectable DTC for a half, trailing 19-7. But the second half became a nightmare.

Save for an impressive 64-yard march in the first quarter that provided a 7-6 lead -- the first time the Mids have led all season -- they spent most of the game moving in reverse.

The absence of a running game (minus 11 yards rushing in the first half) made Kubiak an inviting target for the Falcons' experienced defense led by active linebackers Steve Russ and Brian McCray and tackle Erik Davis.

"I didn't have time to figure out what they were doing," Kubiak said. "I was too busy looking downfield."

Chaump had a better view.

"They used an aggressive five-man angle rush," he said. "They didn't show blitz that much, but we had trouble blocking for both the pass and run. We always seemed to have different guys breaking down."

Kubiak (28-for-42, 251 yards) could find little solace in breaking the Navy record for passing yardage, eclipsing the mark of 4,582 set by Bill Byrne (1984-1986). He now has a career total of 4,808 yards.

"Maybe 25 years from now the record will mean something special," the Buffalo native said. "But right now I just want to cry."

If the Mids had any chance of challenging the Falcons, those hopes disappeared in a three-minute stretch in the third quarter.

With Air Force leading, 22-7, after a 37-yard field goal by Randy Roberts, Navy had a first down on its 48 when McGrew was stripped of the ball by tackle Jason Tone. Safety Kelvin King recovered at midfield.

McConnell then made several nifty runs, capped by a 13-yard touchdown keeper.

Two plays later, Kubiak was sacked on the Navy 29 and fumbled. Linebacker Johnny Harrison scooped up the ball and ran unmolested to score and give the Falcons a 36-7 cushion.

"The game just got away from us in that short span," Chaump said. "It's just been so frustrating."

The only glimmer is that Navy has a chance to snap its losing streak Saturday when it plays host to winless I-AA Lafayette (0-5).

NEXT FOR NAVY

Who: Lafayette

When: Saturday, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

Record: 0-5

3' Yesterday: Lost to Dartmouth, 27-15

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