Navy, reportedly under consideration by several postseason bowl committees saw its stock plunge with Saturday's loss to lightly regarded Syracuse.
The Mids, who dropped out of the top 20, would have comented a Liberty Bowl invitation had they beaten Syracuse, according to a committee man for that postseason game.
But the loss to the hapless Orange, which has won only one other game, has narrowed Navy's range of choices. The Academy no longer is the price choice of the Memphis game, the richest among the interested group, which includes the Holiday, Tangerine and Garden State bowls.
However, Mid Coach George Welsh is not overly concerned with the effect of two straight losses on Navy's bowl chances. "We're still 7-2 and I've seen a lot of 8-3 and 7-4 teams get invited in the past," said Welsh. "If we had lost our first two and then come on to win the next seven, you wouldn't be hearing anything bad about Navy."
Navy is still a candidate for the new Holiday Bowl in San Diego, where there is a large Navy base. the Tangerine Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) also has scouted Navy games.
"I think Navy deserves a bowl bid even if it loses to us," said FSU Coach Bobby Bowden. "The Academy has an attravtive name in bowls."
There has been some speculation that Navy might reject an invitation to the Holiday or any other faraway bowl that lacks a big pot because of no television network money.
However, Welsh said, "I feel if we get invited we can fit it in and go."
Another factor governing Navy's chances in the East Coast bowls is that Georgia Tech (7-2), Pittsburgh (7-2), Maryland (9-1) and Clemson (8-1) all are under consideration and are ranked in the top 20. All have played tougher schedules than Navy-an important consideration by the selection committees.
Also, the Mids come up short when it comes to having a name player who could sell tickets to a bowl. Split end Phil McConkey, the Mid's offensive star with six touchdown receptions this season sustained a knee injury in the Syracuse game and will miss at least the FSU game. McConkey may be out for the season.
In fact, the team may have to hold practice in a hospital ward if there are any more injuries. Starting fullback Larry Klawinski (knee) is finished for the season. Tailback Steve Callahan (bruised thigh) is questionable for FSU; defensive back Herb Wilson (thigh) very doubtful, and middle guard Terry Huxel (ankle) probably will miss Saturday's game.
"It's not injuries," said Welsh in trying to account for the two losse. "Maybe we're tired, I can't say. We don't have that much depth. I know that we gave up more rushing yards in the last two games than we had to our first seven opponents altogether."
Navy yielded a total of 747 yards rushing to Notre Dame and Syracuse. That dropped the Mids from a No 1 total defense rating to No 5 nationally.
One day after the Syracuse game the players held a rare meeting. Welsh, while not certain of exactly what was discussed, still had a pretty good idea.
"I think they want to get back as a winning group." said Welsh. "Theyv've had team meetings before but never one that lasted as long (25 minutes).
"Perhaps playing on television (12.50 p.m. WJLA-TV-7, WJZ-TV-13) and having a chance at a bowl will give the team incetive against Florida State."