Navy spotted Michigan two first-half touchdowns today, then dominated the second half before falling to the Wolverines, 14-7, before 101,800 at Michigan Stadium.
The Mids were outmatched in speed and size, but they were never outhit or intimidated by the team rated best in the nation by both wire-service polls.
Navy did not come into the game hoping to settle for any moral victory. And, indeed, the Mids had their chances to win.
"No, this was no no moral victory," coach George Welsh said. "I don't like those. This is a great team and it wants to win."
Michigan coach Bo Schembechler had been saying all week that he expected a tough game and the Mids did nothing to change his mind.
"Nothing about Navy surprised me," Schembechler said. "I've been saying all along that they could play."
This was largely a game of field position. Navy had the ball only four times in the first half and its drives started on its two-, nine-, 22- and 20-yard lines. As a result, the Mids played conservatively, waiting for field position to improve.
Navy got the ball on its 33 following a Michigan punt in the third period, and quarterback Bob Leszczynski took to the air. He hit wingback John Kurowski first for 23 yards and then for 20.
Michigan looked confused, but came up with the big play when it needed it. On fourth and goal from the nine, Leszczynski hit Kurowski on a crossing pattern at the one-yard line, but Michigan safety Derek Howard kept Kurowski from squirming that final yard. The Wolverines took over inside the one.
Three plays later they punted. That again gave the Mids good field position at the 44, and seven plays later Leszczynski hit split end Sandy Jones on a 34-yard touchdown strike. Leszczynski made a little fake into the line and then lofted the ball to Jones streaking down the left sideline. There was not a Wolverine within five yards of him when he made the catch in the end zone.
Bob Tata's point after made it 14-7.
Michigan didn't get a first down in the third period and Navy outgained the Wolverines, 140 yards to minus 11, in that quarter.
The game was pretty much a standoff in the final quarter. Michigan got to the Navy 12 early, but the drive stalled and Gregg Wilner's 29-yard field-goal attempt was wide left.
For the game, the Mids rolled up 301 total yards to only 277 for Michigan, had more first downs and ran more plays.
Navy got most of its yards through the air with Leszczynski completing 16 of 28 passes for 194 yards.
Michigan got only 36 yards passing and quarterback Rick Leach was thrown for 34 yards in losses trying to throw.
Michigan took the opening kickoff and came at the Mids like they were going to bury them. The Wolverines did nothing fancy, but marched up the field 73 yards to the one, then promptly fumbled the ball away.
Tailback Harlan Huckleby, who eventually picked up 147 yards on 24 carries and scored both Michigan touchdowns, tried to dive over the center of the line, but the ball squirted out of his arms and Navy's Bart Nixon fell on it at the two.
The next time it got the ball, Michigan ground out an 80-yard drive in 11 plays, all on the ground. The score came on Huckleby's 13-yard run off tackle.
Huckleby scored again, this time on a 22-yard run off a pitchout from Leach, with 1:42 left in the half.
That touchdown drive was kept alive by a fake punt on fourth down that so surprised the Mids they ended up with only nine men on the field in the confusion.
Not much was heard from the Michigan offense after that.
"The first two games we weren't too sure of how good we were," Leszczynski said. "We proved today that we are just as good as we had hoped we were."
Added middle guard Charlie Meyers, who played a big part in bottling up the Wolverines' inside game. "It's not the end of this team just because we lost. It's not the end."