Navy, which has yet to be behind this season, rushed for 424 yards yesterday as it demolished Air Force, 37-8, for its fourth victory, all on the road.
Tailback Steve Callahan raced for 159 yards in 26 carries; co-captain Phil McConkey scored two touchdowns, one on a sensational split end reverse, and kicker Bob Tata connected on three field goals, extending his string of successes to seven.
The unbeaten Mids scored every time they touched the ball in the first half, building a 23-0 lead before the intermission as a makeshift defense was limiting the grounded Falcons to three first downs.
Middle guard A. B. Miller, broken finger, and safety Fred Reitzel, wrenched knee, were absent from a Navy defense that entered the game ranked second in the nation.
Sophomore Terry Huxel replaced Hiller and led the Mids in tackles with eight, including three for losses, besides recovering a fumble. Chuck Zingler shifted from cornerback to safety and picked off one of four interceptions, while Charlie Meyers broke up two passes and made a behind-the-line tackle in Zingler's spot.
In fact, except for losing the coin toss and committing nine penalties, Navy flawless. This figures to give worrywart Coach George Welsh another uneasy week as his team prepared for its home opener Saturday against Duke.
"I don't think we know yet how good we are," Welsh said. "We haven't been behind yet, we haven't been played real tough yet. Except for the penalties, everything is going right. When a field goal hits a post and bounces good two weeks in a row; you have to wonder how long it will be before things go against you."
Welsh, fearful of overconfidence, attitude problems and the injuries on defense, was testy on arrival here and drew criticism from the local media.
"I just didn't want it to get away," Welsh said. "As soon as you start telling yourself you're good, without remembering what it takes to be good, you're in trouble. It happens to some team every weekend."
Although Welsh is unconvinced, it is becoming apparent that this Navy crew, which so far outscored its feeble opposition 118-16, is an outstanding football team. This is the first time since 1960, when Welsh was in-service assistant and Joe Bellino was a senior, that Navy has won its fist four.
"That's too damn long for a school," Welsh said.
Tata, who was successful from 47, 39 and 43 yards, thinks it's about time Navy got some recognition.
"Every week people expect us to lose," Tata said. "Maybe that makes us a little madder. We can't seem to get respect. If our name was Notre Dame or Pittsburgh, with what we're doing we'd be No. 1 or No. 2. As it is, we're No. 50."
Tata relished every moment of the victory and wished the regulars had stayed in longer to roll it up. He has not forgotten a 13-3 defeat here two years ago, when he was harassed by Air Force assistant coaches and "my mind choked" on back-to-back missed three-point tries.
"They were standing around timing me and talking to me, telling me they hoped I wasn't the No. 1 kicker," Tata recalled. "That's cheap. Football isn't life or death. It's a game. I haven't any respect for Air Force, stooping to that."
Navy had no respect for the Falcons right from the start yesterday. Although Welsh made numerous substitutions, making certain only the secondary played more than three series without relief, the Mids were in control.
Callahan sprints of 23 and 33 yards set up the first two scores. Tata's 47-yards and McConkey's 19-yard sprint around the right side on a reverse from Callaham. On the 71-yard touchdown drive, the Mids overcame a clipping penalty that left them with second and 26 at the Air Force 31.
Tata kicked his 39-yarder against the wind after reserve quarterback Bob Powers guided the Mids from their 24 to the Air Force 23 in 14 plays.
Bob Leszczynski, the regular signal caller, hit McConkey with a 36-yard scoring pass with 2:48 left in the half. Navy regained possession and got close enough for Tata's 43-yard carom off the left post with three seconds left.
Early in the third quarter. Navy increased its lead to 30-0 on an 80-yard drive climaxed by Curt Gainer's 17-yard sweep of left end on a tight end-around play.
Air Force's scored followed its moment of deepest humiliation. Two Falcon receivers, awaiting a punt at the Navy 45, collided and fell, the ball rolling to the Air Force 40 accompanied by laughter from Navy fans in the crowd of 30,482.
Tailback Mike Fortson's 11-yard draw up the middle snapped the shutout and Dave Ziebart hit Scott Jensen for a two-point conversion.
Callahan closed out his best day as a collegian with a 39-yard scoring sprint through a gaping hole at right tackle.
Navy's offensive line, suspect at season's start, continued it outstanding play. Guards Frank McCallister and Tom Feldman blasted defenders with such devastating effect that Air Force Coach Bill Parcells said, "I am embarrassed."