Problems in secondary get Navy passed over 2-4 Mids have allowed 295.8 yards a game in air

October 21, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Compare the opponents' passing statistics from 1997 to 1998, and it is easy to understand why Navy is a struggling 2-4 team compared with last year's 7-4 record.

The Midshipmen allowed their rivals an average of 148.2 yards through the air last fall. This year, it nearly has doubled. The Navy secondary has been burned for 295.8 yards per game and a total of 14 touchdowns.

It has faced quality quarterbacks in Wake Forest's Brian Kuklick (256 yards, one touchdown against Navy), Tulane's Shaun King (235 yards, four touchdowns) and West Virginia's Mark Bulger (354 yards, two touchdowns). But even Jose Davis (359 yards, two touchdowns) and Ryan Vena 377 yards, three touchdowns) from non-football powers Kent and Colgate resembled Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana throwing against the Mids.

The problem has not gone unnoticed by Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie, but there are no ready solutions with only one defensive starter, senior tackle Jason Snider, returning from last season.

"We're blowing some pass coverage because we're young back there," said Weatherbie, preparing his team for a visit to Boston College on Saturday.

The youthful secondary is being force-fed to gain experience. It includes freshman Bas Williams and sophomore Mike Wiedl on the corners and rarely used junior Jamie Doffermyre at free safety. It was Doffermyre, a Gambrills native, who broke up a pass in the end zone in the closing seconds Saturday to preserve Navy's 42-35 victory over Colgate.

Rival quarterbacks have also benefited from the absence of a pass rush with the Navy defense geared to stop the run. The Mids have accounted for only eight sacks, topped by Snider's pair.

"We're not as good applying pressure as we've been in the past," Weatherbie said. "We have more quickness, but we're just not as physical as last year, when we had linemen like Dave Viger and Chad Holzapfel, who weighed over 270 pounds."

Again, there are extenuating circumstances. The Mids lost their five best linebackers through graduation. Projected starter Jake Bowen left the academy for a two-year Mormon mission, and fellow linebacker Keith Mier, a senior, was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury in spring practice. A case of mononucleosis has sidelined junior defensive tackle David Ryno the last three games.

This week, the Mids face more of a running threat in Boston College senior tailback Mike Cloud, who has rushed for 966 yards and nine touchdowns, including an 85-yard sprint against Temple.

The Eagles opened with an upset of Georgia Tech and followed with victories over Rutgers and Temple, but have since dropped three straight to Louisville, Virginia Tech and Syracuse. They boast a Baltimore-area player in Lake Clifton graduate Dennis Harding, a senior who has 11 receptions for 192 yards.

NOTES: Saturday's game will be carried by Channel 2 starting at noon. The season-ending game with Army at Philadelphia on Dec. 5 has been sold out.

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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