Just how much can this Boston College squad take?
Last year, the Eagles suffered through a 2-9 season, including a 27-24 upset loss to Navy, making for Coach Jack Bicknell's third consecutive losing season. This year, they've lost their opening games to Pittsburgh and Big Ten power Ohio State by a combined score of 60-16. And they've got Penn State, Syracuse, West Virginia and Miami ahead of them. Whew!
So tomorrow, the Middies should find a BC team that will be eager for its first victory when the Eagles travel to Navy-Marines Corps Stadium for a 12:10 p.m. game.
BC's offense is led by tailback Mike Sanders, who rushed for 707 yards last season. At quarterback is freshman Glenn Foley, who has completed more than 50 percent of his passes (36 of 68, 379 yards), but who also has had four interceptions with no touchdowns. Foley, however, will be looking for one of the East's top tight ends, 6-foot-6 Mark Chmura, who led the team last year with 47 receptions and has 10 so far this season.
The Eagles also boast a hefty offensive line with returning lettermen guard Mike Bumpus at 273 pounds, center Mike Ratigun at 262 and tackle Mike Iavanavick at 289 as a nucleus.
The defense is more in a class size-wise with Navy, featuring returning lettermen linebackers Kevin Pearson (6-3, 237), Matt Kelley (6-2, 228) and Ivan Caesar (6-2, 234), interior lineman John Stolberg (6-2, 250) and strong safety Dave Johnson (6-0, 197).
With two victories and a loss under their belts and with Navy's all-time total offense leader, Alton Grizzard, throwing hard again this week, the Middies eagerly await the 21st meeting between the teams. The series is tied at 10 games apiece.
Last week's 23-21 victory over Villanova was a page out of the extraordinary. The final statistics looked like a misprint. The Middies were outpassed 287 yards to 88 mainly because Grizzard was hampered with a bruised arm.
The Wildcats recorded 20 first downs to the Middies' 18, but could only muster 50 yards on the ground. So, why did they stay so close? A tough little dude by the name of Tony Columbo, listed at 162 pounds (but closer to 149) picked the Middies' defensive secondary apart, that's how.
Columbo is so small you couldn't find him in the huddle, yet he passed over, under and around the Navy defensive linemen, evading tackles while on a dead run. If there is a college football player worth the price of admission to see in action, it's Columbo.
In addition, one of the most spectacular touchdown passes any fan could ever witness happened in the second quarter when Jim Downs caught Columbo's long pass in the end zone while stretched out in midair.
Once again this Navy team would bend on occasions but refuse to break. This is a good barometer reading in predicting the effort in future games.
The Middies simply didn't quit. This game started ugly on the first series of plays when Grizzard was intercepted, but they quickly regrouped. Later in the first quarter tailback Jason Pace scored from the 7-yard line.
In reference to the extraordinary, if any college team in the land has a better kicking game than Navy, it would be difficult to find. Jeff Triplett's high and long punts kept Villanova in terrible field position time and time again.
Kicker Frank Schenk isn't resting on his 1989 laurels. His kicks are long, accurate and almost always right down the middle. One even hit the scoreboard on the south end of the stadium.
Also, on the plus side, tailback Pace (102 yards rushing) and the emerging senior fullback from Arkansas, Dominic Flis, (62 yards rushing) are adding surprising depth to the running game that also has veterans Kwame Moultrie and Rodney Purifoy. Coach George Chaump should feel confident about his running game after watching Pace run for big gains at crucial moments, and seeing Flis come into his own by breaking tackles.
The passing offense naturally was handicapped last week. But there is a need for the air game to become more potent overall, more effective than just the short flare passes to B.J. Mason and Terry Dawson, although the latter did catch three scoring tosses against Richmond.
The coaching staff has to be concerned with the defense against the pass. It's true that the Middies have played against three outstanding passers in the early games, but the defensive rush has not been effective and the secondary looks confused at times.
But the coaching staff is surely aware that talented quarterbacks and big defensive linemen are coming up in the weeks ahead.
How about Annapolitan Chris Alexander last week? The defensive tackle made nine unassisted tackles and two sacks to be named the Eastern College Athletic Conference I-A Rookie of the Week . . . There is a ballclub sneaking up on the Oct. 13 date. Gerry Faust's Akron Zips, with 31 lettermen and a multiple-I offense, are undefeated . . . Grizzard would have made a great single-wing tailback in the old days. He can pass and run . . . Tonight the 150-pound Navy 11 is at Princeton. Next Friday it's Pennsylvania on Turf Field at 7:30 p.m. . . . The Virginia rout of Duke (59-0) makes the Navy game look a little better. The Cavaliers didn't even score in the fourth quarter . . . Coach Chaump's old team, Marshall University, ran into a vastly improving Citadel on Saturday, losing 21-10. The Citadel almost upset Air Force two weeks ago, 9-6 . . . Old Army grads still salute the Tucker-Blanchard-Davis championship years in the '40s as the greatest. However, today's Mike Mayweather already has passed the great Glenn Davis' rushing record . . . Congratulations to the Navy staff for planning the moving POW-MIA ceremony at the half last week. It touched everyone . . . The 50-year reunion team of 1940 with Bill Busick, Dick Foster, et al, present looked mighty good . . . Athletic Director Jack Lengyel presented the academy with captain Dick Foster's helmet worn in the 14-0 Navy victory over Army in 1940, and with great dignity the Army captain's helmet. The latter lost his life in World War II.