A week ago, Navy quarterback Bob Leszczynski resembled the "it" man in a game of dodgeball, with Duke defenders forming the outer circle.
If Navy is to avoid a repeat of that 28-16 disaster here Saturday, it must cope with an Air Force pass rush that proved too much to handle a year ago at Colorado Springs.
The big man in the Falcons' defensive line isn't very big physically. He's Dave Scott, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior from Alexandria who last year recorded two sacks among six unassisted tackles that helped Air Force to a 13-3 victory.
Scott, who finished his prep career in Texas after a year at Groveton High, holds all Air Force career records for sacks and lost yardage, following a junior year in which he tossed opposing backs for losses 27 times.
"He has played very consistently this year," said Air Force coach Ben Martin. "He's a great diagnostician of plays that hit the corner. He's an agressive and well-conditioned player. Last week against Georgia Tech, he went all the way despite humidity that was getting to other players. He made a couple of score-tackles recovered two fumbles and finished the game despite eight stitches in his eyebrow."
"Their ends play differently from anyone else in America," said Navy coach George Welsh. "They've always had good end play and this year they have two sophomore tackles that are as good as they've ever had. The matchups are important in this game. If we can't block tackles, we're going to have a long afternoon."
A year ago, Welsh suffered through an agonizing afternoon against the Falcons. Navy was virtually helpless offensively and, when it was over, Scott commented. "We were really psyched up. We were ready for them. I don't think they were ready for us. We know Army-Navy is the big one, but we're getting into it."
There's no doubt Air Force ranks no better than No. 2 on Navy's priority of opponents and it quite possibly stands only third, behind Notre Dame. Further complicating the Mids' preparations is the fact that this is exam week, and Navy has been noticeably unsuccessful trying to play football amid classroom distractions.
"We're usually prepared for Air Force," Welsh said. "We just weren't a very good team when we went out there last year. Exams have made a difference in other years, but so far this year there seems to be more enthusiasm. The players aren't so tired.
"But we have a number of nagging injuries. Last week a lot of guys missed a day or two of practice. We were really beat up after Michigan (Fullback Larry) Klawinski was off yesterday with his neck injury and (defensive tackle) John Merrill missed practice, too. He's all banged up. I don't know if those guys have recovered from two weeks ago."
Navy has held the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy foru straight years and Air Force never has won it. Martin conceded that winning that service prize is a major goal for the Falcons, whose loss to Army last year nullified the success over Navy.
Navy tailback Joe Gattuso is close to 100 per cent after playing for a month with a hyperextension of the knee . . . Air Force Gen. George Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will attend Saturdays game. "He has to be neutral," Welsh quipped. "He's a West Point graduate." . . . An overflow crowd of 30.000 is expected and, with boat show traffic added to the usual game mess, fans are advised to come early. Although kickoff is at 2 p.m., parking lots will open at 9 a.m.