It is hard to imagine a bigger game on the Navy football schedule than the season finale with Army on Dec. 7, but the coaches have been selling the players all week on the importance of tomorrow's game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
"I know we need this victory to have postseason considerations," said Navy head coach Charlie Weatherbie. "We can't be caught looking past Georgia Tech to the Army game."
Athletic director Jack Lengyel concurs.
"Beating Tulane last week, we qualified for a bowl with six Division I victories," he said. "But I think we'll need to be 8-2 overall before playing Army to get serious bowl considerations."
As an independent team, Navy's bowl options are severely limited. The Independence Bowl is the best bet, with the Aloha TTC and Sun considered long shots because of their conference ties.
Even beating Georgia Tech might not ensure that the Mids (7-2) receive a bowl berth. Bowl scouts could wait for the result of the Army-Navy game before making a selection.
Rick Holland, chairman of the Independence Bowl, will be scouting the Navy-Georgia Tech game.
Georgia Tech (5-4) is still entertaining bowl hopes, but will need to beat either Navy or rival Georgia to qualify with six Division I wins.
"Right now, I'm only concerned about trying to beat Navy. I'm not concerned with bowl games. I'll let our athletic director [Homer Rice] worry about that."
Asked how he hopes to neutralize Navy quarterback Chris McCoy, who has gained more than 200 yards in his last two games, O'Leary said, "We'll use 13 players."
McCoy's passing impresses
McCoy, who has totaled 1,130 yards in nine games, ranks fifth on Navy's all-time rushing list for a season, with Napoleon McCallum holding the top two spots -- including the record of 1,587 in 1983. That will force McCoy to have consecutive 200-plus-yard games against Georgia Tech and Army to set a new standard.
But it was not the junior quarterback's elusive running style that most impressed Weatherbie last week.
"We know Chris' running capabilities," he said. "But I was impressed by the way he passed the ball against Tulane. He threw for two touchdowns on play action and hit his receivers in full stride. This is the area where he has really improved."
Georgia Tech QB struggling
While McCoy has carried the Navy offense, Georgia Tech has had to rely on the still-erratic play of redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Hamilton.
Hamilton has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,096 yards and five touchdowns, but appeared shaky last week under a strong rush by the Maryland defense. He has thrown 10 interceptions. Georgia Tech's strength is its defense, led by junior linebackers Ron Rogers and Keith Brooking. Over the past two seasons, the two have combined for 508 tackles.
Attendance record set
Navy set a record for home attendance this season, averaging 29,256 for its four games at Navy-Marine Corps
"That has been a big plus for us this year," said Weatherbie. "It's like having a 12th man on the field."
Pub Date: 11/22/96