There is no deep mystery as to why the Navy football team is 3-5 this year after two straight winning seasons.
The defensive statistics almost leap off the page as evidence: The Midshipmen, who play Notre Dame Saturday at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, rank 110th among 112 Division I schools in pass defense (298.4 yards per game), 109th in total defense (481.5) and 107th in points allowed (209).
In every game, save for Air Force, which was content to run the ball in a 49-7 rout, the Navy secondary has made the rival quarterback resemble Johnny Unitas. Saturday, it was Mike McMahon's turn. The Rutgers sophomore completed 17 of 24 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns and engineered a nine-play, 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to edge the Mids, 36-33.
Offensively, Navy has had little trouble moving the ball. It leads the nation in rushing (297.5) while averaging 26.7 points, usually enough to win more than your share of games.
"Our job is to score," said senior guard J.D. Gainey, "but sensing you have to score every time you have the ball puts a strain on the younger guys on the team."
In trying to pinpoint the reasons for the porous pass defense, it goes back to the old chicken and egg argument: Which comes first, the lack of a pass rush or an overmatched, inexperienced secondary that has been burned for 19 touchdowns?
In the past two years, Charlie Weatherbie had solid pass rushers in Clint Bruce, David Viger, Denis Kane and Travis Cooley to pressure the quarterback.
Last year, Navy recorded 30 sacks and allowed only 112 yards a game passing. This year, the Mids have a total of 10 sacks for 97 yards, led by tackle Jason Snider and safety Jamie Doffermyre with two apiece.
Navy has lost 22 straight to ranked opponents, with Notre Dame (No. 12) coming up. The Mids last staged a major upset, Sept. 20, 1985, beating then-20th-ranked Virginia, 17-13.
This year, Navy has lost to three ranked teams -- Tulane, Air Force and West Virginia.
Pub Date: 11/11/98