Navy hopes to break Irish's 30-year hex


Navy continues its football resurgence tomorrow with a visit to Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium and a national television date with No. 2 Notre Dame at noon.

The Midshipmen are 9-56-1 in the series and haven't won since 1963, when a team captained by current Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch beat the Irish, 35-14.

Why does the academy continue this uneven relationship?

The most convincing answer is that Navy teams through the years have wanted an opportunity play against the best.

Army dropped the Irish in 1985 but will pick up the series again in 1995. Air Force goes to South Bend, Ind., next year after dropping Notre Dame from the schedule in 1991. They had beaten the Irish four consecutive years, from 1982 to 1985.

There is a certain prestige in playing Notre Dame, which has the highest winning percentage of any Division I college football team (.761), capturing eight national titles.

Navy will come into the game on the heels of a 28-0 loss to No. 19 Louisville last week, but the Mids weren't outplayed badly. Consider, for example, these statistics:

* First downs: 18 each.

* Yards rushing: Navy 56, Louisville 69.

* Yards passing: Navy 300, Louisville 363.

* Return yardage: 131 each.

* Passes completed: Navy 31 of 53, Louisville 25 of 37.

* Time of possession: Navy 36:30, Louisville 23:30.

That doesn't look like a blowout, especially keeping in mind that Louisville scored more than 28 points against Arizona State, Texas, Pittsburgh, No. 13 West Virginia, Memphis State and San Jose State.

So, why was Saturday's score so lopsided?

The Mids (4-3) wasted scoring opportunities, missing -- among other chances -- two makeable field-goal attempts.

They also were blistered by Cardinals quarterback Jeff Brohm, who found his favorite receivers, Ralph Dawkins, Kevin Cook and Aaron Bailey, when it counted.

Navy's Jim Kubiak had a great day, passing for 300 yards and setting a Navy record for completions and passing yardage in a season.

Tight end Kevin Hickman and tailback Jason Van Matre caught eight and seven passes, respectively.

But the Mids couldn't score.

Navy coach George Chaump said after the game, "I don't think I've ever been involved in a game quite like this one, a game when you play so well and move the ball so much but never get into the end zone."

Notre Dame (8-0) will offer formidable opposition. Irish tailback Lee Becton and Co. run behind a bone-crushing line, and the Irish defensive line is as big as the Chicago Bears'.

But Navy has proved it can knock heads with the big boys and will go right at the Irish all day.

Navy's final three games, against Vanderbilt, Southern Methodist and Army, should prove interesting and could give the Mids their first winning season since the 6-5 record 11 years ago.

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