Although it is still early in the season, one of the more interesting and tell-tale college football matchups will be played tomorrow at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium when coach Andy Talley brings his Villanova Wildcats into town to face Navy at 1:30 p.m.
Both teams are 1-1 and are attempting to regroup after last week's losses.
The matchup very well may determine the direction their football fortunes are going to take this year. It's a potential go-forward or slide-back setting for both. With Boston College coming in next week, Navy coach George Chaump's charges could use a big win against the visitors from the Philadelphia area.
Last Saturday, as every Navy faithful knows, the Mids ventured into the den of the Virginia Wahoos and except for an embarrassing first half (35-0) accounted for themselves reasonably well, meeting one of the nation's best ball clubs.
No alibis are appropriate or needed in that one, as Navy battled offensive and defenses alignments the size of most NFL teams. As Virginia's coach George Welsh said after the game, "Some of our wide receivers were bigger than their linebackers."
Add future NFL No. 1 draft pick quarterback Shawn Moore and super receivers like Herman Moore, Bruce McGonnigal and Brian Satola to the equation, and one readily gets the picture.
Yet, Navy still managed 21 first downs to Virginia's 26, 223 yards passing to 258, and had possession a respectable 26.32 minutes to 33.28. Not bad statistics against a major power.
But what counts, of course, is the final score, 56-14. Navy simply was overwhelmed in most phases of the game with the exception of the typical Middie team spirit and refusal to play dead.
The old saying that "to win is to glow, to lose is to grow" should be meaningful in this instance for the Navy football team, which still is in the learning process.
With the determination and the obvious leadership that now prevails with this team, mark up last week's game as a growing experience. This is not hyperbole but a reality in the unfolding development of a team that needs to drastically upgrade play execution on both sides of the line of scrimmage and to add consistency to its overall performance. It was exposed to the big time last week.
Meanwhile, the Virginia series, which has become a tradition, will continue into at least the 1993 season.
Tomorrow's opponent has become a consistent Eastern Division I-AA power under coach Talley, reaching the I-AA national playoffs in 1989 by tying for first place in the Yankee Conference.
Talley is sporting a 33-15-1 record over five previous seasons at the helm and has become the 10th-winningest active I-AA coach nationally with a .645 career winning percentage. After the Wildcats thrashed a good Maine 11 in their opener, last week's 37-14 defeat by William and Mary must have been a shocker.
Villanova, also a young team, is looking to regroup this week.
Navy's last meeting with Villanova occurred in 1980, an 8-3 season at Navy that took it to the Garden State Bowl and a loss to Houston. The Mids did defeat Virginia, Boston College, Washington, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Army that year.
The Villanova game was a thriller with Navy edging the Wildcats, 24-15, in a game featuring one of Navy's most prolific scorers, Eddie Meyers. In the overall count, the Mids hold a 7-2 record for nine games in the series that began in 1908.
The visitors enter tomorrow's game with two young quarterbacks, 5-7 sophomore Tom Colombo and 6-2 freshman Don Taylor. The running threats are juniors Pat Kennedy at tailback and sophomore Jeff Johnson at fullback. Another sophomore, Scott Donald at tight end, is a potential all-Yankee Conference candidate.
The offensive line is a big one, headed by sophomore Bill Lacey at 275 pounds. For a change, Navy's offensive line will line up fairly evenly in size with the Wildcats' defense. Nose guard Kevin Martchek at 250 pounds and outside linebackers Rich Sernyak at 230 and Damon Green at 220 are the only seniors in a 3-4 defensive setting.
Navy did come out of the Virginia game with no serious injuries. In addition, guard Michael Davis and tailback Ivan Bullard will be available after recovering from previous injuries. The starting backfield of Alton Grizzard, Rodney Purifoy, Kwame Moultrie, and flanker Jerry Dawson will be ready. One of Grizzard's favorite pass receivers, B. J. Mason, is ready to go.
Early arrivals at the game will enjoy the Brigade march-on at noon.
Short punts This corner incorrectly reported last week that the Navy 150-pound football home opener would be on Sept. 22. Actually, the opening home game is scheduled for Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. against Pennsylvania on Astro-Turf field. . . . Future Mid opponents had mixed results on Saturday. James Madison, Delaware and Boston College lost, Akron tied a tough Central Michigan, and Notre Dame, Air Force, Toledo and Army were victorious.
How about perennial football patsy VMI upending James Madison, 24-21? The Keydets have finally come up with a passer. . . . Is there a finer playing field than Navy's newly resodded gridiron? Not likely. . . . A lot of interest has been expressed around town among corporate leaders in the stadium sky boxes due in 1991.
Versatile 169-pound flanker Dawson has tied two Navy records already this season -- most kickoff/punt returns in a game (eight) and most touchdown receptions in a game (three). . . . Quarterback Grizzard is about to become Navy's career total offense leader, having already passed All-American running back Napoleon McCullum and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach.
Philadelphia is making the Army-Navy games profitable over the long haul for both academies. . . . The only Annapolitan on the squad this year is Annapolis High's defensive tackle (No. 71) Chris Alexander.
Earl Schubert, a free-lance writer, is a Baltimore native who lives in Annapolis. A former football coach, he was a secondary school administrator in Missouri and Montgomery County, and worked for 17 years as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Education. His Navy "Blue and Gold" column appears every Friday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.