This time, Mids have healthy shot against Vanderbilt

Last year, the Vanderbilt Commodores came to Annapolis and beat an injury-riddled Navy, 27-7.

Tomorrow, a healthy Navy squad will be in Nashville, Tenn., looking for a little payback.


Vanderbilt (3-5), coming off a victory over Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky last week, will play host to Navy at 2 p.m.

Coach Gerry DiNardo's squad needs a victory but may be looking ahead to its final two games of the season, at No. 8 Florida and No. 6 Tennessee.


Coach George Chaump's Navy (4-4) hopes to stop the Commodores and move above .500 again. A win would move the Mids, who close out their season against Southern Methodist at home next week and against Army on Dec. 4, a lot closer to finishing with a winning record.

A victory over Army would give Navy its first Commander In Chief's Trophy since George Welsh's last year, 1981, a season that included victories over Georgia Tech, Boston College and Syracuse, and a trip to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

To give football fans an idea of how the Nashville media viewed Navy's visit early on, the Commodores were congratulated on "wisely" choosing the Mids as one of the two nonconference opponents that would offer only moderate competition in the middle of a brutal schedule. It is unlikely that this assessment is still strongly held at Vanderbilt.

This will be the fifth meeting between the schools. The four previous encounters were all close, with the exception of last year's.

The last meeting was indicative of Navy's problems in 1992, with drives stalling deep in Vanderbilt territory and a 19-0 deficit after three quarters.

Returning from last year's Commodores squad are All-America linebacker Shelton Quarles and senior linebacker Brad Brown. The two running backs who hurt the Mids the most in 1992 -- Cliff Deese and Tony Jackson -- also return.

The first meeting between the two teams ended in a 6-6 tie in 1907, during one of Navy's great early seasons (9-2-1). Navy won in 1966, 30-14, under coach Bill Elias, who is the Commodores' outside linebackers coach. Their meeting in 1967, Elias' last year as coach at Navy, ended in a 35-35 tie.

After losses against Louisville and Notre Dame, Navy -- which did not play last week -- is in unusually good health for tomorrow's game.


Chaump believes that "our biggest challenge was to get our defensive front four healthy and back on the track."

The two starting tackles, senior Stacey Yopp at 275 pounds and senior Ty Renick at 240, who missed the second half against Notre Dame, are expected to play. Senior defensive end David Shaw also should be ready.

Considering the serious injuries that hampered the Mids the past two years, Navy looks good.

Offensively, Navy continues to move the ball with Jim Kubiak setting various career passing records. Tailback Jason Van Matre is ranked in the Top 10 for Navy in career rushing and career receptions.

On defense, linebacker Javier Zuluaga continues to excel. The potential All-American made 13 unassisted tackles against the Irish. Junior linebacker Shane Holloran has emerged to give the Mids consistency against the run.

Navy's venture into the tough SEC is an opportunistic one, and a win tomorrow could go far toward guaranteeing the Mids a successful season.


But Chaump said this week that "the season is not over until we beat Army."

Still, the Mids will take a win tomorrow and dream about a 7-4 season.