The state of Maryland has not been kind to Howard Schnellenberger over the past two decades.
In 1974, he was dismissed as coach of the Baltimore Colts for defying owner Bob Irsay's orders to change quarterbacks. In 1982, his Miami Hurricanes lost to Maryland in College Park. And, in 1988, his Louisville Cardinals were beaten by the Terps at Byrd Stadium.
But yesterday, Schnellenberger and Louisville survived a first-half scare from the Naval Academy and rolled to a 35-14 victory before 28,156 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
"I'm glad to have finally gained a victory over the Commonwealth of Maryland," said Schnellenberger. "I wasn't happy with the 14-14 score at halftime, but in the second half, our team began to play up to its capabilities."
After twice spotting the Midshipmen (1-6) a touchdown lead in the first half, the Cardinals (4-3) dominated the second half.
In the absence of a pass rush, junior quarterback Marty Lowe completed 29 of 36 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior halfback Anthony Shelman, kept in check in the first half (10 carries for 16 yards), finished with 63 yards and scored twice on short dives in the third quarter.
"They stopped Shelman by committing too many guys," said Schnellenberger. "It's hard to do that against an offense as varied as ours."
Schnellenberger turned his offense over to the reserves in the fourth quarter and sophomore Jason Payne hooked up with halfback Calvin Arrington on a 31-yard touchdown pass to complete the scoring.
The Cardinals, who kept their bowl hopes alive, spotted Navy a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when both teams appeared paralyzed after a 42-yard field-goal attempt by Ryan Bucchianeri was blocked. Tony Solliday, the holder, picked up the loose ball and ++ ran 26 yards into the end zone.
"The ball was just lying there behind the line of scrimmage," Solliday said. "I picked it up and started to run with it, almost expecting to hear a whistle. But with no one was chasing me, I just walked in."
Louisville quickly produced a tie. Lowe connected with his favorite target, senior tight end Jamie Asher (11 receptions, 108 yards) on a 40-yard pass, and, two plays later, Lowe found Arrington open in the end zone from 7 yards.
An interception by safety Andy Thompson set up Navy's second touchdown in the second quarter.
Taking over on the Louisville 38, Navy used a 16-yard pass to Matt Scornavacchi and a 12-yard run by Patrick McGrew to move the ball to the 1-yard line. On third down, Monty Williams barreled over from the 2.
After another Navy drive died on the Louisville 34 with 2:28 remaining in the half, Lowe made excellent use of the clock. He completed seven passes in a 66-yard drive, capped by a 7-yard toss to halfback Shawn Jackson to produce a 14-14 tie.
It was all Louisville in the second half, as Navy's lack of depth took its toll, and the Midshipmen never got deeper than the Cardinals' 34.
The Cardinals began the third quarter with a time-consuming 13-play, 69-yard scoring drive.
The key play came on third-and-six from the Louisville 47. Lowe appeared hemmed in by two Navy defenders, but escaped to keep the drive alive with a 12-yard sideline pass to wide receiver John Bell. Lowe completed all seven of his passes in the march.
"That drive seemed to take the wind out of our sails," said Navy quarterback Jim Kubiak, who completed only 15 of 34 passes for 156 yards.
Navy coach George Chaump had changed the blocking patterns to buy more time for his quarterback, who had been sacked 24 times in the first six games. Yesterday, Kubiak, who rolled out more often, was sacked three times and intercepted once in the fourth quarter.
"This just wasn't one of his better days," said Chaump. "He seemed to be hurrying his passes and overthrowing receivers."
But Chaump, who has to play Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., next Saturday, was encouraged by an improved running game (94 yards) and an improved defense that gave up only a few big plays.
"But we're still self-destructing," Chaump added. "Penalties were vTC our big bugaboo. We had some foolish penalties that killed some of our drives, and kept Louisville moving when we should have had them stopped."
Louisville 7 7 14 7 -- 35
Navy .. .. 7 7 0 0 -- 14
NEXT FOR NAVY
Who: Notre Dame.
When: Saturday, at South Bend, Ind.