Unbeaten Navy will revive memories of past football glory when it meets 5-1 Pitt before what is certain to be a record crowd in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Not since the Roger Staubach-Cotton Bowl season of 1963 has there been so much excitement on the banks of the Severn. The Mids have been swept up in a tide of emotion and the biggest fear is that they will be drained by game time.
It was at the 24-12 victory over Pitt 15 years ago that the crowd mark of 30,231 was established. That will be topped today by fans jamming the portable seats and grassy cliffs of the end zone for the 2 p.m. start.
While Navy enjoys its football resurrection, unbeaten Maryland must guard against farsightedness as it tackles 3-3 Duke at Durham, N.C. The Terrapins have a national televised date with undefeated Penn State next week and it would not be possible for them to push that contest totally from their minds.
The area's other unbeaten team, Georgetown, visits Jamaica, N.Y., to play St. John's. The Hoyas' last perfect season was in 1939.
Besides Navy, three other area colleges will be home today, all for 1:30 starts. Catholic entertains Frostburg State, Montgomery Rockville is home to Stevens and Gallaudet is host to Anne Arundel.
Howard travels to Hampton, University of D.C. visits Maryland-Eastern Shore and Bowie State goes to Norfolk State.
Navy also has a big one next Saturday - Notre Dame in Cleveland - but there is little fear of the Mids looking ahead. They are one touchdown underdogs today and their 9-0 struggle with William and Mary last week was sufficient to point out the dangers of taking any team too lightly.
Although Navy football only recently has been discovered by the multitude, it is no great surprise to those involved that the Mids are 6-0.
"We looked at the schedule and we thought we'd have a good team," said quarterback Bob Leszczynski. "There was a realistic possibility of winning the first six, but of course doing it was something else.
"Last year we thought we had one of the best teams here in a while and we were disappointed the way we ended up (5-6). We knew how we acted last year, thinking we had a good team and then not having it work out. So we were more conservative this year in what we said."
The Mids have been relatively conservative on the field, too, a situation predicted on the fact that they have not been behind in any game this year. But it seems certain that Navy today will be forced to throw more than the 14 passes it has averaged thus far.
"Teams that have moved the ball against them (Pitt) have mixed their attack," said Navy Coach George Welsh. "We can't expect to shove the ball down their throats the way we did the other teams on our schedule. Surely, we'll have to pass more."
This is homecoming at Annapolis but Welsh (Navy '56) would like to ignore that aspect.
"I don't like homecomings," Welsh said. "There are too many distractions."
Navy's sudden success has created many more distractions for Welsh and his players in the form of media attention. But they are happy to be noticed for a change, so Welsh isn't complaining, just trying to limit access a bit.
The academy is giving the game pre-Army treatment and in Bancroft Hall, the midshipmen's dormitory, the barbers are wearing blue football jerseys that say "Clip Pitt," the shoe repair shop personnel have "Kick Pitt" on their jerseys and the plumbers - well, their slogan had best be deleted from a family newspaper.
Although the weather report is favorable, Sandra Welsh, the coach's wife, will carry an umbrella to her seat. She also will be wearing a gray wig. That combination worked for victory in the opener at Virginia and she isn't about to change.
"Faye Claiborne knows everything about the game," Mrs. Welsh said of her opposite number at Maryland, "and I consider her an astute, scientific observer. I find it hard to challenge her when she says Maryland's No. 1.
"I'm Hungarian and superstitious and I arrive at my poll using fetishes and hope and luck and making deals with the Lord. I know nothing about the game except to look at the scoreboard at the end, but I still come out with Navy No.1."
It isn't easy keeping a team unbeaten by carrying an umbrella on a starry September evening, as she learned at Boston College.
"It was a beautiful evening and I had to carry my umbrella past a row of drunks and I heard one of them say, 'Check that dizzy broad. She thinks it's going to rain,'" Mrs. Welsh recalled. "I guess I am a little bit of a nut. But this week I have plenty of company."