History may be on side of Navy Embattled Mids search for hope


By now, the plight of the Navy football team has been rehashed over and over.

The unbelievable string of injuries to key personnel, the penalties that have killed exciting drives, missed blocking assignments, the ineptness of some game officials -- and yes, the week-by-week improvement of the defense -- have all been recorded by the media and elsewhere.

In general, it presents a sad and frustrating picture. Coach George Chaump rightfully speaks of "tough times" and seeks direction as to where to go from here.

We have been reminded that no Navy team has been shut out the first three games of the season since coach Bill Ingram's 1928 squad.

It should be noted, however, that Ingram's team didn't lose another game, finishing 5-3-1. Led by running back Charles Maure, the 1928 Midshipmen defeated West Virginia Wesleyan, Loyola College, Princeton, Penn and Duke, not exactly what's ahead for this year's squad, beginning tomorrow with North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Down the line are the likes of Air Force, Notre Dame, Tulane and Vanderbilt along with Delaware, Rice and Army.

When an example of a team's super effort in the face of similaadversity is described through the years by Navy old-timers, the 1948 Army game shines bright in memory. The Cadets were undefeated and rated No. 1 in the nation under legendary coach Earl "Red" Blaik, and the Midshipmen were 0-8 when they took the field in Philadelphia.

Led by "Pistol Pete" Williams and Scott Emerson, Navy came away with a 21-21 tie.

that time, some writers were comparing Army with several of the pro teams of the era. With inspired leadership, that is what a Navy team can accomplish as a distinct battered and bruised underdog.

Somewhere in the ranks of this year's Navy squad are Mid hearts that beat just as strong with a determination just as ripe, and courage just as widespread to rise to the extraordinary challenge ahead.

Academy supporters hope the present players have such a effort in them. Navy linebacker Chris Beck said it best when he explained that "our goal is to get better every day, and it's going to happen."

Meanwhile, we are hearing from pundits that athletic directo Jack Lengyel has made the football schedule too "tough" this year. In 1991, the same folks were disappointed when "no-names" such as Ball State and Bowling Green appeared on the Midshipmen's schedule.

Once and for all, it should be recognized that college football schedules are developed five to 10 years in advance. Lengyel and his staff have worked overtime to reshape the Navy schedule that reflects the presence of academically oriented opponents with long-standing national football reputations.

The 1992 and future schedules do just that. It so happened thaRutgers, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Rice are all on the upswing this season. Eventually, this all will balance out as Navy gets its act together.

What tomorrow's starting lineup for Navy will be, particularly ithe injury-plagued spots, is anyone's guess. Chaump will be using any number of inexperienced players as he attempts to find winning combinations on offense and defense.

There is no question that the defense has improved, however unlikely this sounds after allowing 121 points in three games. Most of these points have come after fumbles, interceptions, and poor punts, few by sustained drives. Chris Hart, Chad Chatlos, ++ Chris Beck, Javier Zuluaga and Bob Kuberski continue to shine on defense along with freshman Andy Purson at left end.

The offensive line still appears set with senior Steve Palmer at center along with Blair Sokol, Greg Hubbard, Dan Pidgeon and Max Lane, the interior linemen. Kevin Hickman and Tom Pritchard are solid pass receivers.

Now, the big question mark: Who will fill in for the injured offensive backs?

With Duke Ingraham, Billy James, and possibly Jason Van Matre out along with the first three quarterbacks, the coach has some tough decisions to make. Is sophomore Tony Solliday a real sleeper at quarterback? From the cheering last week when he went into the game, they seem to think so.

Senior Steve Seoane also still hopes to get back in the lineup at quarterback. But the word out of Annapolis this week is that a conservative offensive game plan is being incorporated into the overall game strategy, and this could bring about some strange reshuffling of backfield personnel.

Tomorrow the Midshipmen face another good passer in NortCarolina's Jason Stanicek, who nearly pulled off the upset last week against North Carolina State. At one point during the second half he completed 14 straight passes. The Tar Heels are 3-1, losing only to No. 23 N.C. State, 27-20.

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