Navy's offense took most of three quarters to get cranked up today. But when it did the Mids churned to an easy 21-2 victory over The Citadel in their season opener at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Navy looked woeful in the first half and was down, 2-0, midway through the third period when it put together an impressive 97-yard drive to get on the scoreboard.
It was no contest from then on.
"I was hoping we wouldn't start quite that slow," Navy coach George Welsh said. "We were sluggish for a long time. I wouldn't say we were really sharp out there today at all."
Quarterback Bob Leszczynski admitted he was "weak in the passing area" in the first half, but got Navy's multiple offense working after intermission.
"I just didn't feel like I was in the game in the first half," said Leszczynski, who was 10 for 19 for 135 yards and a touchdown.
"We had the first-game jitters. A lot of us were holding back and being too cautious. Their defense had a lot to do with our not playing well in the first half, too. I had trouble reading their coverages," he said.
The Mids, in fact, had trouble doing anything right in the first half, and it looked for awhile as if the star of te game was going to be Citadel punter Kenny Caldwell. He had one 75-yarder to get the Buildings out of trouble and a 51-yarder that bounced out of bounds at the Navy five. That punt set up the safety that accounted for Citadel's points.
Navy ran three plays after Caldwell's kick for a total of six yards and Art Ohanian was forced to punt from one yard deep in his end zone. He didn't have a chance.
Citadel rushed 10 men with end Bob Tillman blocking the kick. The ball rolled cut of the end zone for the two points, with 47 seconds left in the half.
Navy's one scoring three in the first half was foiled when tailback Joe Gattuso fumbled the ball at The Citadel's three.
Gattuso atoned for his blunder with a workmanlike 122 yards on 20 carries. No individual play was spectacular, but he was consistently effective. He scored Navy's final touchdown on an 11-yard tailback sweep after fullback Larry Klawinski threw a great block to get him around the right corner.
Gattuso's backup, freshman Steve Callahan, got one of the other two Navy scores on a similar play around the other end. Leszeznski pitched the ball to him and let him outrun everyone for the nine yards to the end zone.
Navy's first score, the one that culminated the 97-yard drive, displayed the explosiveness the Mids have at their disposal.
After another superb Caldwell punt, Navy started at its three-yard line. The bogged down at first, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave them new life and they capitalized on it.
Leszczynski was faced with a second and 22 at his 29 before the Mids rolled 71 yards in three plays, taking less than a minute to get the score.
Lezczynski looking like the Raiders' Ken Stabler, first hit wingback Bob Wilson over the middle for 14 yards. He followed that with a 20-yard completion to split end Phil McConkey.
With Citadel still reeling, Leszeznski hit tight end Rich Cellon over the middle for 28 yards and the touchdown.
"It's a play where both the quarterback and I have to read the safety," Cellon said. "Their secondary was rotating to a two-deep and I went right between them and Bobby put the ball in there."
Citadel's Marty Crosby, however, had considerable difficulty putting the ball in there. He completed 11 of 30 for 82 yards, was intercepted four times and never generated much of a drive.
Navy showed more versatility today than it has in the past. The Mids looked like miniature Dallas Cowboys as they ran from multiple sets, including the shotgun, I, pro set and straight T.
"That is a lot of offense to think about and it may have mixed us up a bit, but we'll get a lot better at it as the season progresses," Leszczynski said.
Navy's kicking game was weak. Holand Ellis' kickoffs were not deep and Ohanian's short punts kept Navy in trouble.
Navy finally found the antidote to Caldwell's boomers in the fourth period when McConkey grabbed one and raced back 53 yards to set up Callahan's score.
Navy's next opponent. Connecticut, was bombed by Lehigh, 49-0, today and that didn't please Welsh. But after that, the big-timers start popping up on Navy's schedule, starting with Michigan at Ann Arbor.
This was the first game in his last four that Leszczynski had had a pass intercepted and the fourth straight game Mike Galpin has made an interception.