Navy ends drought with winning season 30-14 defeat of Delaware clinches above-.500 finish for first time since 1982

November 10, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Navy has been starved for a winning football season since 1982, and yesterday it finally alleviated the hunger.

Handed more than they bargained for by Division I-AA Delaware for 30 minutes, the Midshipmen dominated the second half and scored a 30-14 victory yesterday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The largest non-Air Force game crowd in the stadium's history, 33,908, watched the Navy defense ration Delaware to 6 minutes, 21 seconds of possession after halftime while circumstances forced the re-introduction of a plebe kicker who ignited the offense with three straight field goals.

Tim Shubzda -- benched for Tom Vanderhorst after missing two field-goal attempts during the second game of the season -- resurfaced to connect twice from 32 and once from 22 yards, and kick-start the Mids' sixth victory.

"I wish I could bottle up this feeling and take a sip of it every once in a while," said Navy senior tackle Alex Domino, the only Delaware native (Middletown) on the Navy roster. "I wish it could last forever."

Navy (6-2) settled for a 14-14 standoff at the half, but probably should have led. Vanderhorst just couldn't get going, failing on field-goal tries of 39 yards or less three times.

The tone of the final two quarters changed dramatically as the Midshipmen ground away at the Blue Hens' linemen. Quarterback Chris McCoy (201 rushing yards) and others ran almost at will.

Drives of 71, 57 and 57 yards netted field goals from Shubzda and entailed 38 plays by Navy, which did not punt in the second half. In the same span, Delaware (7-3) had the ball for nine snaps, including two punts.

"We came back and controlled the ball and the game," said Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "I was very impressed with the way we played the second half. Physically, we wore them down up front."

Said Domino: "It gives your offensive linemen a second wind when you see their linemen kneeling down and leaning over."

The Midshipmen finished with school records of 34 first downs -- 28 by running -- and 77 rushing attempts.

"We had to pick it up to another level," said McCoy, whose rushing total was a season high. "They were playing at our level in the first half."

The Navy defense also did its part in the second half, throttling Blue Hens quarterback Leo Hamlett, who passed for 139 first-half yards and two touchdowns.

When Delaware did have the ball, Hamlett was forced to go for broke or take sacks. In his team's last gasp, Hamlett was intercepted by defensive end Tom Poulter with Navy leading 23-14.

"That is probably the highlight of my career," Poulter said of his first pickoff. "I couldn't do anything but catch the ball and run for my life."

The Midshipmen then put it away with a 54-yard scoring march culminating in McCoy's 10th rushing touchdown of the year. Vanderhorst returned to kick the conversion.

Delaware coach Tubby Raymond was not disappointed with his team's play in a second straight defeat that may have damaged its playoff hopes.

"I think we spoke well of ourselves and played as well as we can," said Raymond. "We hung in there and hit with them and had a chance to win the ballgame.

"Our defense got worn down in the second half and we couldn't stop them. That forces your offense into things that you don't want to do."

The victory enabled Navy to reach its goal of a winning season, and it can achieve another objective (going unbeaten in Annapolis) next weekend against Tulane.

Last week's game against Notre Dame in Ireland was obviously a distant memory for a team that must win one more game against a Division I-A opponent to qualify for the bowl lineup.

"It was good to be home, in a locker room that actually had room, and with fans that were your own," Domino said.

Next for Navy

Opponent: Tulane

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis

When: Saturday, 1: 30 p.m.

Record: 2-7

Yesterday: Lost to Syracuse, 31-7

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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