Most of the nation watched Notre Dame devastate Pittsburgh's pass defense in the fourth quarter two weeks ago and hand the Panthers their only loss of the football season.
The Irish completed seven of seven throws and scored 17 points to pull out the televised 26-17 victory. So, naturally, the subject of passing was brought up at Navy Coach George Welsh's weekly press conference yesterday.
The unbeaten Midshipmen have not had to use the pass extensively, although it was supposed to be their most poetnt offensive weapon this season. The Mids have won six straight games for their best start since 1950.
The 18th-ranked Mids face their first quality opponent of the season Saturday and, of course, everybody expects Welsh to take the Navy passing game out of mothballs against the Panthers.
"To have success against Pittsburgh you have to throw the ball more than 10-to-12 times a game," Welsh said. "But Pittsburgh has done a very good job of pass defense except for a quarter or two here or there."
Pitt Coach Jackie Sherrill explained the problem against Notre Dame:
"Notre Dame did some things in the fourth quarter that we'd be caught up in things we didn't want to be in."
By way of translation, Welsh said Pitts was caught in the wrong defense in the fourth quarter.
The key to passing success against Pitt, the Navy coach explained, is putting into motion a balanced offense against a Panther team that is exceptonally good against the run, with a line that includes standout A1 Chesley from Washington's Eastern High.
"They are very strong physically," said Welsh. "They gang up on you in the middle and force you outside. Then they depend on their speed and quickness to run you down . . . If you can't run on them, you aren't going to beat them."
Defensive end Charlie (Thunder) Thornton, who suffered a knee injury against William and Mary, practiced yesterday and is expected to be ready for Pitt . . . Middle guard Terry Huxel is hobbling on a bad ankle, but A.B. Miller, who started the season at that position before missing the last three games with a broken finger, is practicing at full speed this week . . . Sophmore Ted Dufbauld will be the third linebacker, taking the place of Mike Kronzer, who underwent knee surgery Monday . . . Pitt reports that offensive tackle Mary May is out with an ankle injury . . . All reserved seats for the Pitt game are sold, but Navy is erecting temporary bleachers and selling standing-room tickets (for sitting on the grassy bank behind the stadium's north end zone. A crowd of 83,000 is expected . . . Asked about the pressure of a, 6-0 season, Welsh said, "It's worse when you're 1-6 than 6-0, I'll tell you that."