NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For Navy this 1993 football season, it has been pass, pass, pass. For Vanderbilt, it has been run, run, run.
Which strategy is more successful will be determined today when the teams play at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Navy's junior quarterback Jim Kubiak is enjoying TC record-breaking year, with his pass completions (192) and yardage (2,096) setting single-season records with three games left.
A year ago, when converted running back Jason Van Matre did most of the passing, the Midshipmen totaled 2,126 yards in the air and 2,249 yards on the ground.
This year, the Mids have gained only 706 yards rushing, or just half their opposition's total, while averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
Because Navy (4-4) has been so successful passing, there might be a temptation to all but abandon the running game. But offensive coordinator Greg Briner quickly vetoed that idea. "You can do something well and still lose," Briner said. "Rival teams are overplaying the pass at the expense of the run.
"For us to win, we have to control the ball. We can't leave our team on the field as long as we did in the second half against Notre Dame. We finessed it in the first half, using a lot of guile. But in crunch time, their superior bulk and speed took over."
Briner also notes that the running game isn't all that bad.
"In terms of statistics, we haven't done that badly," he said. "Our top runner, Van Matre, is averaging five yards a carry."
Navy coach George Chaump expects Vanderbilt to stack its defense to stop the pass.
"We've seen a lot of teams use five defenders underneath and three men deep against us," he said. "So far, we've been very successful picking up the blitz. We use a lot of different formations to keep the other team guessing."
Chaump does not have to guess how Vanderbilt will attack his defense. The Commodores (3-5) have averaged 192 yards rushing opposed to 36 yards passing with a completion percentage of .297 while experimenting with three quarterbacks.
Ronnie Gordon, a redshirt freshman, is running the team, literally and figuratively. He completed 4 of 9 passes for 33 yards in Vanderbilt's 12-7 win over Kentucky last week.
"They're a wishbone team, but they combine it with power, what I call a 'blast' offense," Chaump said. "They run inside and outside. They have size and mobility. It's a tough offense to defend."
The Commodores, led by Tony Jackson (424 yards), have moved the ball consistently, but struggled to score. They have scored nine touchdowns all season and only 82 points.
A Southeast Conference member, Vanderbilt is 1-7 against non-conference foes since Jerry DiNardo became coach in 1991.
"If we're going to make any progress with our program, this is an area we're going to have to improve," DiNardo said. "I've been addressing this problem before, during and after the season. We can't only get up for our SEC games.
"We've got to be ready for everybody, and this is the best Navy team I've seen since 1982, and they have a pro-caliber quarterback in Kubiak, who is as good as any quarterback in our conference."
DiNardo resorted to a motivational speech for his team's upset of Kentucky. He explained to his players how a boa constrictor dies when it loses its sting. He challenged his players not to lose their "stingers," and they responded with one of their best defensive efforts, limiting the Wildcats to 220 yards.