Last Saturday against Bowling Green, Navy quarterback Jim Kubiak enjoyed an offensive day worthy of a Joe Montana, Dan Marino or former Naval Academy hero Roger Staubach.
The blond-haired junior from Buffalo completed 28 of 34 passes for 317 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Midshipmen's 27-20 win.
You would have expected Greg Briner, Navy's new offensive coordinator, to have pasted four gold stars on his quarterback's weekly report card. After all, he was named ECAC offensive player of the week. Instead, Briner wrote "needs improvement."
Surprisingly Kubiak, who missed almost his entire sophomore season following shoulder surgery, was in complete agreement.
"Jim can throw better than he did against Bowling Green," said Briner. "I know it, and he knows it."
Asked for specifics, Briner said, "Jim has to throw deep more often. Right now, he's looking for the 'safe' completion. He's also made some mental errors. We got caught with 12 men on the field against Bowling Green. It almost cost us a touchdown, and that shouldn't happen.
"But what Jim did well was to rally the team and keep the guys calm when things didn't go our way. He's got all the attributes to be an excellent quarterback -- intelligence, leadership and a good arm.
"Considering what he went through last year, and then having to learn a new offense, he's been fantastic."
Before the season, coach George Chaump predicted Kubiak, by his senior year, "will be the best quarterback I've been around." And what Chaump has seen so far this season has only strengthened his conviction.
"I coached some kids who were great throwers at Indiana [Pa.] and Marshall before I came here," said Chaump, preparing the Mids (2-1) for Saturday night's game against Tulane (1-3) in the Superdome.
"In 1986 at Marshall, we went to the Division I-AA finals because our quarterback, Tony Patterson, threw 45 touchdowns and passed for over 4,900 yards in 15 games.
"I also worked with Rex Kern, Cornelius Greene and Art Schlichter as a quarterback coach at Ohio State for 10 years, but I think Kubiak can be better than all these guys. He has a long way to go, but he's got a great football IQ."
Chaump sensed Kubiak was something special when, as a plebe, he threw for 406 yards against Wake Forest, completing 36 passes. He also was outstanding in a 24-3 victory over Army, hitting 13 of 16 passes.
There were bigger expectations for Kubiak last year, but he dislocated his shoulder in the season opener against Virginia, trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception.
"I thought just going through my plebe year at the academy was rough, but nothing in my life was tougher than sitting out my sophomore season," said Kubiak, who watched the Mids suffer through a second straight 1-10 season.
But Kubiak received inspiration from an unexpected source.
"I got a letter from Staubach," he said. "I'd heard him speak at the academy several times, but had never met him personally. He told me to hang in there and to rehab the best I can because I represented the future of the Navy football team. He said we'd start winning again when I got healthy. It gave me quite an emotion al lift."
There was little doubt that Kubiak was back in charge when the Mids began practice last spring.
"All the kids deferred to him," said Briner. "The other quarterbacks were strictly battling for the backup job."
Kubiak, who at 215 has added 25 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame, believes he has made giant strides since his promising plebe season.
"My first year, I was just thrown into the fire without really knowing what I was doing, he said. "Now I'm stronger. I used to get tossed around. Now I can take a hard shot. But most of all, I'm more mature and getting respect as a leader."
Kubiak also finds more freedom operating in Briner's multifaceted offense. He has used audibles extensively, and has found 10 different receivers in completing 70 of 112 passes in the first three games.
"I'm working behind a great offensive line," he said. "They've done an excellent job of picking up stunts and blitzes. I've got a lot of time to throw. It's like Coach Briner says, I can still get a lot better."