It was one of those games in which the simplest explanation is probably the best: Navy is not a good football team right now.
As coach George Welsh said, Sycracuse "did anything it wanted to" as the Orangemen humbled the Mids, 45-34, today.
Navy, which a month ago was fourth in the nation in pass defense, was confused and overmatched against Syracuse quarterback Bill Hurley.
A slick 5-foot-11, 192-pound junior. Hurley completed 20 of 31 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores and 14 of the passes went to sophomore running back Art Monk.
Hurley did most of his damage in the first half, when he completed 14 of 19 for 192 yards and two scores. Monk had 12 receptions in the first two quarters and seldom, if ever, was a Navy defender very close to him.
Syracuse had a 31-20 lead at intermission and was on top, 38-20, before the Mids made a late run by scoring two quick fourth-period touchdowns.
John Sturges intercepted Hurley's only bad pass of the day and returned it 17 yards to set up the score that got the Mids to 33-34 with 10:51 to play.
Navy quarterback Bob Leszezynski hit Sandy Jones with a 42-yard pass on the next play, and after a 10-yard Joe Gattuso run, fullback Larry Klawinski bolted into the end zone from the two. Leszeznski threw to Phil McConkey for two-point conversion.
But the poised Hurley responded by taking the Orangemen on a gameicing 79-yard touchdown drive that consumed 4 1/2 minutes. The touchdown was a 17-yard pass to wide receiver Mike Jones.
Jones and Navy defensive back Glenn Flanagan collided at the five and Flanagan was knocked down. Jones wasn't, made the catch and scored easily.
"We threw a lot of new formations at them, and we thought it would give them problems," Syracuse coach Frank Maloney said. "We were in a formation with only one running back most of the time and used a lot of variations with our wide people."
Welsh said, "Their formations surprised us, but we should have been able to adjust to it. It was ridiculous at times the way we let Hurley do things."
Maloney swears Hurley "is the best quarterback in the country." That may be a bit much, but he was certainly in command today. Monk's presence didn't hurt, either.
Monk, a 6-2, 206-pound hundler, is so effective because he seldom lines up in the same spot two plays in a row. He is listed as a running back, but he goes in motion a lot and even lines up as a flanker or a slot back.
"You can't defend against him because you don't know where he's going to come at you from," Maloney said.
Monk gained 167 yards on his dozen first-half catches. His most impressive came with 43 seconds left in the second quarter, after Navy's Bob Tata had kicked a field goal to cut Syracuse's lead to 24-20.
Syracuse took possession at its 33 with the Mids in a prevent defense. But Monk outran all of them and made a catch over the shoulder of a 52-yard Hurley pass at the 10-yard line, beating Sturges.
"That play bothered me," Welsh said. "It was dumb, poor coaching and everything. There's no excuse for letting a guy get behind you in that situation."
Three pays later, Hurley hit Monk with a two-yard touchdown pass. Dave Jacobs' conversion kick gave Syracuse its 31-20 halftime lead.
At first, Navy appeared likely to treat Syracuse like Notre Dame treated Navy last week. The Mids stopped the Orangemen on their first possession and McConkey returned Jim Goodwell's punt 67 yards for a touchdown.
It took Hurley only seven plays to go 70 yards and tie the game, the touchdown coming on a two-yard play-action pass to Monk.
Navy went back on top when Leszeznski scored on a one-yard run at the end of an 80-yard drive.
The teams then exchanged field goals, leaving Navy on top, 17-10, before Hurley took Syracuse on a 71-yard touchdown drive. He needed 12 plays, five of them passes to Monk. Hurley scored on a three-yard run.
Less than a minute later, Larry King intercepted a Leszczynski pass and returned it 25 yards to the Navy 15. Two plays later Bob Avery ran over from the five, and the Orangemen never looked back.
Gattuso picked up 132 yards on 28 carries, giving him 1,020 this year. He's only the second Mid in history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. The other was Cleveland Cooper.
Navy, now 4.5 must beat Georgia Tech next week and then Army, Nov. 26, to finish above .500.