For much of last season, Navy's defense was ranked No. 1 in the nation. A lot of people wearing white jerseys in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today still are convinced the Mid defenders are No. 1.
Navy's white-clad first-string offense was unable to score on a defensive team that was missing several key performers during a controlled scrimmage today. Even when Coach George Welsh presented the offense with a first down at the 10-yard line just before halftime, the goal line remained inviolate.
"I was pleased with the defense," conceded Welsh, who obviously was not overjoyed with anything else. "But our passing game is not operating properly. We had guys open and we didn't throw the ball to them. Or if we did, it was bouncing off their chests.
"Our running game was better, but it wasn't consistent. At least we were avoiding fumbles. When you run the ball a lot, as we plan to do, you can't fumble. Our timing was off, possibly because we had to make a number of personnel changes. We've got a long way to go. We've been slowed by too many injuries."
Besides the battle casualties, a number of players have been struck down by a virus. Among the victims was No. 1 quarterback Bob Powers, forced to leave in the third quarter after a four for eight passing day.
Missing from the defensive ranks were several starters, including linebackers Tom Paulk (back injury) and Ted Dumbauld, (dislocated elbow) and tackle Steve Chambers (virus).
Middle guard Terry Huxel came up with a standout performance, making numerous tackles and blunting a fourth-and-one attempt by knocking the center into quarterback Mark Fitzgerald, who stumbled and fell.
Junior tailback Mike Sherlock produced one of the day's two touchdowns on a 68-yard quick opener through the left side, triggered by the block of sophomore guard Cliff Hagan. Sherlock recorded 151 yards in 21 attempts, mostly against the second defense.
Sherlock and fullback Kevin Tolbert worked with both first- and second-team offensive lines, as did the nominal starters, Steve Callahan and Larry Klawinski. Welsh intends to give all four plenty of work.
Tom Tarquinio, a plebe from Powers' high school in Beaver, Pa., accounted for the second touchdown in the closing minutes with a 45-yard pass to Dave Block. Tarquinio also was responsible for the day's lone fumble, but he is clearly the No. 3 quarterback and could be Navy's man of the future if he can pad his 5-foot-9, 160 pound frame.
Sophomore Jon Ross, who lettered at defensive halfback as a plebe, is being used at wide receiver in an experiment and showed his ability to break free by grabbing a 33-yard floater from Fitzgerald.
The punting continues to present a problem and, when a manager consistently booted 50-yarders during the halftime break, there was a suggestion from the group of hand-picked, security-cleared spectators that he be given a uniform.
Welsh, however, knows the difference between halftime hijinks and trying to punt over the heads of on-rushing linemen, so he will continue to work with struggling Lex Laulette and Mike Crum.
"They both have good enough legs," Welsh said. "We have to keep working with them, because one of them is going to kick for us. Neither has any experience, so we have to give them some time."