There will be no time for testing the waters.
Sophomore quarterback Brian Madden will have to dive in without much rehearsal Saturday when he starts his first varsity football game for Navy at Notre Dame -- with its 80,000 rabid backers, storied tradition and Touchdown Jesus peering over the field from beyond the end zone.
"I look at it as a great opportunity," Madden said. "They're a great Division I football team, the kind everybody looks forward to playing when you come to Navy."
Madden replaced Brian Broadwater, the cornerstone of the Navy offense who suffered a fractured clavicle during last week's disastrous 35-29 loss to Akron in Annapolis. Broadwater is out for an indefinite period although coach Charlie Weatherbie said yesterday, "I played in three weeks when I broke my collarbone."
From Lawton, Okla., the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Madden is a strong player who was the 189-pound state high school wrestling champion in a state where that sport is revered. He also was an all-state quarterback and free safety in football.
"Wrestling has helped as far as football goes, making the weight, going through tough times mentally," Madden said.
His opportunities have been limited because Broadwater has played exceptionally well. After spring practice, they were considered almost even, but Madden pulled a groin muscle in preseason workouts and did not return until the first game.
Madden said the Notre Dame game is "not one of those you're expecting to win, but we're confident we can play with anybody."
Irish break pays off
Notre Dame's first open date (Sept. 25) produced favorable results in subsequent games.
After a season-opening rout of Kansas, the Irish lost three straight decisions to Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State. The Irish were off the next week before launching a three-game winning streak against Oklahoma, Arizona State and USC.
Now, they are entertaining Navy after a second off-week. "It seems like a long time since we've played," said coach Bob Davie. " Our challenge is to make sure we make as much improvement as we did after the first open date."
Davie pointed out that in the three games before the first idle week, Notre Dame had 14 turnovers; in the three after, only three.
Weatherbie off his back
Weatherbie underwent surgery yesterday morning for removal of a kidney stone and said "it's great to be seen" at his weekly press conference yesterday.
He coached Saturday from the press box, but said he spent the second half of the disastrous 35-29 defeat to Akron "on my back. I first got it Saturday morning and it felt like appendicitis or something."
Zips go over Mids' heads
End Michael Wagoner said Navy's defensive unit was thinking during the late stage of the Akron game: "If they keep getting field goals, we'll be OK." But the Zips burned Navy with three long plays, scored three touchdowns and completed a comeback from 23-0 to win.
"We felt this was a time to pad our stats," Wagoner said. "We got to thinking that this team shouldn't be on the field with us. But we were wrong."
NBC has the telecast of the game, starting at 2: 30 p.m. EDT, with Dick Enberg and Pat Haden behind the mikes. Notre Dame has won seven in a row after having a bye. Starting offensive tackle Hoot Stahl is expected back from a toe injury.