Rutgers may prove to be breather Mids need

Freshman QB Schwenk gets start for winless Knights

Navy notebook

November 03, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

If ever Navy's football team needed a breather, this is the time.

And the Midshipmen may get one Saturday, although they are scheduled to play in the aftermath of their painful, 28-24 defeat at Notre Dame last week, their fifth loss by six or fewer points this season.

The opposition is Rutgers, which has not won a game, is last in the Big East Conference and is ranked below 100th nationally in rushing, punting, scoring, pass defense, total defense, scoring defense and turnover margin. There are 114 NCAA Division I football teams.

Terry Shea, the Big East Coach of the Year in 1998, is seeing the other half of the coin during a season in which the Scarlet Knights have played only one of eight opponents to a one-touchdown victory margin.

"We're not seeing the performance out of the younger players that we've been forced into playing," said Shea. "We have six defensive starters out with injuries. That is a factor we have battled since the start of the year."

Rutgers upset Navy, 36-33, with a touchdown run by quarterback Mike McMahon with 1: 18 left in the game last November. But McMahon has been another casualty, undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery after a defeat to Virginia Tech on Oct. 22, and Shea will start freshman Chad Schwenk at quarterback Saturday.

"We'll have to try to shorten the game because we know we're very vulnerable," said Shea. "It's going to be necessary to keep our defense relatively fresh."

Navy, which has lost three straight by narrow margins, is not expected to let down, however.

"I don't think there will be a problem keeping our team up," said coach Charlie Weatherbie. "We have to get this last one out of our system and move on. We're excited about going to Rutgers and getting the taste of victory."

Madden to play

During his first start, Navy quarterback Brian Madden suffered a gash on his left arm that required eight stitches, but he will be in the lineup again.

"It's healing up pretty well," the sophomore said yesterday. "I don't think it's something big that's going to bother me. I'll wear an elbow pad to keep it from busting open or getting infected. It only hurts when I'm sleeping or bump something."

Madden played a creditable game in relief of Brian Broadwater, running for a game-high 168 yards and passing for 86 more on 7-for-17 efficiency.

Elsewhere on the injury front, offensive tackle Hoot Stahl is expected back after missing four games with a dislocated right toe, and slotback Dre Brittingham, probably Navy's swiftest offensive player, is questionable with a strained hamstring.

Et cetera

Navy's only win in a close game was a 31-28 decision at West Virginia. A split in games decided by six or fewer points would leave the Midshipmen 4-4, with the meaty portion of their schedule behind them. Instead, they are shooting for a .500 season at best. Navy ranks sixth nationally in rushing offense (256.4 yards a game) but has been outrushed in the last three games. In its past four starts, Rutgers has allowed 214 points to Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Temple.

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