After an exciting come-from-behind, 28-24 victory over the Air Force Academy last week, the confident Mids take on the Colgate Red Raiders (2-3) from Hamilton, N.Y., tomorrow at home with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
The relief didn't come too soon, what with the nationally ranked Louisville Cardinals and the Notre Dame Irish on the horizon.
In the three-game series to date with Colgate that began in 1923, Navy has yet to lose. The 1923 team won, 9-0, recorded a 5-1-3 season, and played a 14-14 tie with the University of Washington in the Rose Bowl. It was coach Bob Folwell's next-to-last year at the helm, having a 22-6-6 record up to that time.
But those early Colgate teams coached by Andy Kerr that battled the Eastern powers for national recognition bears little or no resemblance to the current Red Raiders.
This is in no way a put-down to Colgate. Its enrollment has been kept at 2,500 to 3,000, and its academic standing is consistently second to none in the nation. Playing in the Patriot League, it still tangles with the Ivys. Last week it lost a tough one to undefeated Pennsylvania, 30-12, after defeating Cornell and Columbia. Army shut out the Red Raiders in their second game, 30-0.
New coach Ed Sweeney has them operating out of the I-formation that features the running of tailback Bill Aparacio and the passing of quarterback Chris Lane, who likes to throw to receivers Tom Nash and Glen Eisenberg.
Other than the consistent performance of All-League strong safety Tony Barrett, working behind a 4-4 set, the defense has been a serious problem.
If there was a problem this week for Navy coach George Chaump it is most likely an element of overconfidence and looking ahead.
That would be a natural reaction. After all, that was a momentous win last week over a high-scoring Air Force team, followed by a lot of big talk after the game.
It was a well-earned victory, but all the players should remember what it took to win it -- and what almost lost it. It was a great day for Navy.
Friend and foe alike, including visiting scouts in the press box, are realizing that the Mids have something special in their quarterback, Jim Kubiak.
He has made mistakes, but 22 completions out of 31 passing attempts for more than 300 yards again under pressure is a big-time performance. In addition, he is always a running threat. His support staff in the offensive backfield seems to get more formidable every game.
Billy James, Mike Jefferson, Jimmy Screen, Damon Dixon, Matt Scornavacuhi, Brad Stramanak and particularly Jason Van Matre are becoming a potent force.
If you attend the game tomorrow, watch closely when things get really tight and it appears that the offense is breaking down. Van Matre will grab a difficult pass, break a tackle or make a difficult cut into the clear to get the tough yardage when it really counts.
Too much credit cannot be given to the offensive line of Blair Sokol, Zack McMechan, Chuck Puglia, Dan Pidgeon and Max Lane. Their improved blocking is making it possible for Kubiak to find receivers.
It is obvious that Javier Zuluaga also is special. His name is called so many times when the Mids are on defense. But credit also must be given to the defense's overall improvement. Last season's glaring weakness on pass defense has been overcome for the most part, and interceptions by Chris Hart and Jonathan Wellington against Air Force were instrumental.
All in all, a whole lot of pent-up frustration appears to have been eliminated, injuries have not been significant and spirits are high around The Yard.