Having to play Michigan is no laughing matter but Navy coach George Welsh is trying to stay loose as he prepares his undefeated Mids for their showdown with the No. 1-ranked Wolverines Saturday at Ann Arbor.
"Michigan has some good young players and I don't know if they are ready for us yet," Welsh quipped today.
"Michigan is bigger than we are and faster than we are. We'll have to play perfect football and them lousy in order for us to win," he said.
"Offensively, you can't fool them. You just have to be better than they are and that's tough."
Navy has won five games in a row, includding the final three of last season, but the 70-14 drubbing the Wolverines handed them last year is still on their minds.
As a result, practices have been determined and businesslike all week.
"We haven't had a lot of enthusiasm in practice," Welsh said. "No one is doing much yelling or talking except the coaches. The players have been very serious. I think that's probably good."
Michigan romped over Illinois and struggled against Duke last week.
The key to the Wolvering attack is quarterback Rick Leach. Junior Leach has been a starter since he was a freshman and has imporved each year.
"No one year stops Leach," Welsh said. "You just have to find some way to slow him down."
That is difficult because Michigan is doing more things offensively this year than they have in the past.
"They're spreading out more and sending people in motion and everything," Welsh said. "But they still run basically seven plays - the tailback off tackle, a fullback trap, a fullback drive and four or five types of options. They don't do a lot, but they do it so well."
Leach can beat an opponent with a long run just as easily as with a long pass.
He has tailback Harlan Huckleby and former Woodbridge, Va., high school star Russell Davis at fullback behind him.
Many college observers feel that is the best backfield in the country. All three are capable of breaking a game open.
"I think Davis is an outstanding back," Welsh said. "He's really improved. He does everything well, inculding blocking."
Michigan coach Bo Schembechler is just as impressed with Davis.
"He's up to 220 pounds and still has his speed," the coach said on the telephone.
It's difficult enough to stop Michigan when a team is at full strength, but the Mids are hurting. Three of their first four defensive ends have knee injuries. Jim Degree has undergone surgery and Ed Reid and Bart Nixon have not practiced this week, although Welsh is hoping they can play Saturday.
Michigan has had some injury problems in its offensive line, most notably to All-American tackle Bill Dufek who fractured his leg in the preseason.
Welsh said he expects to use freshman tailback Steve Callahan more, Callahan had a 77-yard run against Connecticut and is the only truly fast back the Mids have.
Schembechler has been warning his team all week that the Mids are not the same bunch they were last year and if his troops don't improve over their Duke performance they could be in for a long and embarrassing afternoon.
"They passing ability makes them able to play with anyone," Schembechler said. "They have a lot of talent and they know how to use it."