Pitt's Gordon Jones was flanked wide left. When the ball was snapped, he ran straight at the poor soul trying to guard him one on one. He dipped inside, then sprinted down field into the end zone. The pass wasn't a good one, falling behind Jones. No problem. He leaped over the defender and snared it as if he were picking an apple off a tree.

Navy secondary coach Joe Spazaini backed up the film and ran the play again, - and again, and again.

All the Navy defensive backs stared at the screen until John Sturges finally said. "You've got to make him eat it. You can't let him do that to you."

Jones will be trying to catch passes against Navy this Saturday in Pittsburgh and making his job that much Matt Cavanaugh is playing again after breaking his wrist in the Panthers' opening-game loss to Notre Dame.

Cavanaugh had problems last week in a 17-17 tie with Florida. Pitt fumbled the bail 11 times and Cavanaugh lost three of them because of bad exchnages with the center.

There is no Tony Dorsett to bail the Panthers out this year, but there is Elliott Walker. He spent much of his time in the past blocking for Dorsett, but this year he came to run. He shed 20 pounds, to a trim 185.

"He still blocks for us, but he is doing a lot of things he didn't do last year," coach Jackie Sherrill said today.

Walker has gained 441 yards on 76 carries for a 5-8 average and scored six touchdowns. And the man who has replaced Dorsett, sophomore Fred Jacobs, is shifty and speed:

Because Cavanaugh has to play with a cast on his left arm, he has trouble handing off and running the option. He does not, however, have difficulty throwing the ball.

"With Cavanaugh Pitt, (3-1-1) is one of the top 10 teams in the country," Navy coach George Welsh said. "They don't have Dorsett anymore, so they have had to spread out more this year. They throw the ball more and better than they did last year."

Cavanaugh has a big-league throwing arm and premier wide receivers in Jones and Willie Taylor.

"We don't have their speed so we won't be able to play them head up," Welsh said.

But what the Navy secondary may lack in speed it makes up for in brains. The Mids are fourth in the nation in pass defense, yeilding only 68 yards a game.

Sturges is fourth in the country with five interceptions.

Sturges, a senior from Los Altos, Calif., has started more games than any other Mid in the past 25 years. He and P.J. McCormick are the corner-backs. Mike Galpin is the safety and Grey Milo plays the rover back in the Mids' four-deep secondary.

That group has named itself the Children of Death and prides itself on dishing out punishment.

Sturges intercepted three passes his freshman season, but only one each of the last two seasons.

This season, Sturges says, he is seeing everything better. "I'm getting better reads - I see the quarterback throwing and react to the ball. I don't know why it's taken me until now to grasp this."

Sturges also knows that most teams try to avoid throwing the ball into Galphin's area. Galphin has seven interceptions in the final four games last year, but has only one this year.

Sturges has gained eight pounds since last year and now, at 205 and at 6-foot-2, he is the ideal size for a defensive back.

Because Navy plays a complicated defense that is difficult for the opposing quarterback to read, all of the Mid defensive backs have to be good tacklers. Sturges is among th best and has 34 tackles so far.

"There's a good feeling among us," Sturges said of the secondary. "We know we can take chances because everyone is flying to the ball."