Navy has look at Wake, sees point of chaos drill First-opponent Deacons lose cool in rout by AF

September 06, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

As Navy's football players gathered in front of TV sets to watch their Thursday night road opponent, Wake Forest, open its season at Air Force yesterday, they suddenly understood the somewhat bizarre scrimmage they had been put through the night before.

Before a captive audience of plebes, jumping for joy because they were being allowed off academy grounds for the first time, and the school band playing as loudly as possible, the team was put through a scripted drill.

"Chaos, that's what we were trying to produce," said coach Charlie Weatherbie. "We simulated situations, things you don't normally see in a ballgame, to get them used to reacting and not going into panic."

Chaos and panic pretty well describes the way Wake Forest reacted through much of its humbling, 42-0 defeat at the hands of the Falcons. The Demon Deacons' first possession started on their 1-yard line as a return man mishandled a kickoff.

Later, a Wake Forest punt returner attempted an over-the-shoulder catch in his end zone, the ball came free and Air Force recovered for a gift touchdown. A blocked punt ended up as six more points for the home team.

All the situations scripted for the Navy players -- onside kicks, safeties, pooch kicks, blocked punts, quick injury substitutions, receiving onside kicks, etc. -- seemed a part of Wake Forest's day. The Deacons did not react admirably.

"If a scrimmage like this is well-scripted, it can be a terrific learning experience," said Weatherbie. Mission accomplished.

Despite being a 1-point favorite and being touted as a bowl contender with so many returning veterans and a high-powered passing offense, Weatherbie said before the game he wouldn't be surprised if Wake Forest was run over by the Falcons.

"While it's true [the Deacons] gave up just 96 yards rushing per game last season, that was against all standard-set, power-running teams. They're going to have trouble stopping the option and anything else Air Force throws at them. I'll bet Air Force runs for 250 to 300 yards on them."

The man was prescient. The Falcons rushed for 294 yards, and that's with the second team playing most of the fourth quarter.

After Thursday's opener (ESPN, 8 p.m.), the Mids are home to Kent University, go to Tulane, play host to West Virginia, then visit Air Force themselves, something Weatherbie can wait for.

"That's a team that won 10 games last year and it has half its starters back," he said.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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