Improved Air Force QB next challenge for Navy

After record season, Harridge bigger, better

College Football

October 02, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Chance Harridge had one of the better seasons a quarterback has ever produced at the Air Force Academy, and one of the people least impressed by it probably was Harridge.

Never mind that last fall, he set a single-season, NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, or that he produced 1,000 yards rushing and another 1,000 passing, only the fifth player in school history to do so. Forget the fact that, behind Harridge's two-way ability, the Falcons won their 16th Commander in Chief's Trophy by beating Army and Navy.

The Falcons faded badly after a 5-0 start that had pushed them into the top 20. They lost to Virginia Tech in the San Francisco Bowl and finished with an 8-5 record. Harridge was convinced he needed to get stronger, sharpen his passing and be a better leader.

"Looking back on a successful year, the biggest thing was swallowing that pill of reality, of feeling unsatisfied with the way things ended," Harridge said. "There was an edge I needed to gain to be more productive and more consistent."

Harridge, 5 feet 11, 185 pounds, has re-committed himself to the game successfully once more as a senior. Through an offseason regimen of weight training and long sprints, he increased his endurance and added about 10 pounds of muscle to his upper body. By doing extensive work on his mechanics, he has improved significantly as a passer.

Once again, Air Force is 5-0. Once again, the Falcons have moved into the national rankings, at No. 25, one week after winning at Brigham Young University for the first time in 21 years. On Saturday, Harridge will lead Air Force into its annual service academy grudge match against Navy at FedEx Field in Landover. The Falcons, who have yet to face Army, are going after their seventh straight CIC trophy.

Harridge is determined to win it again, and it shows. As the man who drives the Falcons' triple option attack, he leads the team in rushing (292 yards), has completed a career-high 56.2 percent of his passes (44.4 percent last year) while throwing for 435 yards, including five touchdowns and only two interceptions. And there is no doubt about who is the leader.

"He's a winner and a fiery competitor. Whenever he talks, people stop and listen to him," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said of Harridge. "He is as focused as anybody I've ever coached in trying to get better every day at practice."

Harridge, who grew up in Bonaire, Ga., credits his parents, Ross and Linda -- both retired school teachers -- for instilling in him the drive to excel.

"They never allowed me to be complacent or be too happy [with accomplishments]. I have a never-say-die attitude because of them," said Chance, who started on the JV as a freshman and was varsity backup as a sophomore.

"Chance has never had a big head about it, but he's always led people," Ross said. "He was like that when he was 8. He has always tried to get everybody as enthused as he is."

Chance grew up dreaming he would one day play for his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- his parents even nicknamed him "Dog." But with his lack of size, only South Carolina gave Harridge a passing look. His high school coach, Doug Johnson, a former player at The Citadel, called an assistant he knew at Air Force, and off Harridge went to Colorado Springs.

By the time Harridge took over the offense as a junior, it wasn't long before he started adding to the rich quarterback tradition at Air Force. The list includes Blane Morgan, an assistant coach who has helped improve Harridge's footwork and throwing motion.

Last year, Harridge made a splash by leading the Mountain West Conference in scoring with a 10.2-point average. He set an NCAA record with 22 rushing touchdowns, the most by a quarterback since Navy's Chris McCoy had 20 in 1997.

Next for Navy

Matchup: Air Force (5-0) vs. Navy (2-2)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: CN8/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line: Air Force by 14 1/2

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