Navy manhandled The Citadel today in a 26-7 season opener at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
From the opening series it was evident that the outclassed Bulldogs were in for a long afternoon as the Midshipmen dominated the line of scrimmage.
The Mids, with tailback Mike Sherlock leading the way with 125 yards on 23 carries, piled up 245 yards on the ground. Quarterback Bob Powers completed only four of 10 passes, but one was a 51-yard touchdown strike to tight end Curt Gainer. It boosted Navy to a 10-0 lead early in the second period and all but decided the issue before 17,835 fans.
After the teams traded turnovers in a listless first period, Citadel running back Sam Scadlock fumbled at the Navy 41 and Terry Huxel recovered for the Mids.
Several good runs by reserve backs Kevin Tolbert and Steve Callahan and a 12-yard pass to Gainer advanced the ball to the Citadel 12.
But the game Bulldog defense stiffened and Navy was forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Steve Fehr with 2:46 left in the period.
"The first quarter we had the wind and yet we gave the ball up three times," said Navy Coach George Welsh. "All we got out of the period was three points. We were handling the line of scrimmage but we got a little sloppy."
Those three points looked good for a long time.Huxel, Steve Chambers, Charlie Thornton and Mike Kronzer anchored a Navy defense that smothered the Citadel offense. The Bulldog game plan included a number of deep handoffs and option plays that usually ended in losses.
"We didn't block at all," said Citadel Coach Art Baker. "That was our biggest problem. It didn't matter whether we tried to run or throw. We weren't blocking and nothing was going to work."
Nothing did. In the first half, eight Bulldog running plays yielded a yard or less. Quarterback Tim Russell, not getting much help, managed five passes, completing two for 10 yards. The Citadel totaled 41 yards in that half.
But thanks to a good defensive play here and there and several Navy mistakes, Citadel managed to stay close.
Then, after taking over at its 44, following one of Bill Young's 11 punts, Navy struck for its first touchdown. Callahan made five yards before Powers hit Gainer coming across the middle at the Citadel 40.
Gainer hauled in the ball, shook off an arm tackle and sprinted for six points and a 10-0 lead with 14:09 left in the half.
"I felt someone touch my arm just after I caught the ball," Gainer said. "But I just shook him off and I was home free."
The Citadel, which lost its opening game to Presbyterian College, 21-13, had a chance to score minutes later. Powers mishandled a snap and Citadel tackle David Wardlaw recovered at the Navy 29.
On third and nine at the 28, Thornton made the play of the day. The senior defensive end ran over his blocker, Bill Bloodworth, and nailed Russell for an 11-yard loss to end that threat.
"I saw a gap on that play and just charged through," Thornton said. "Since we were doing so well at the line, we stayed in their backfield a lot."
Following Young's punt, the Mids put together their best sustained drive. They kept the ball for nearly seven minutes and drove 87 yards before again settling for a Fehr field goal, this of 20 yards, and a 13-0 halftime lead.
"We decided at halftime to go with the option a bit more," Baker said. "It was the only thing we felt could work against the defense they were using. Considering our defense had to stay on the field three-fourths of the time, I'm pleased with our performance. Our offense just didn't help."
The Citadel didn't play much better in the second half, although it did manage to avert a shutout.
Navy scored twice in the third period, the touchdowns coming within six minutes of each other. On the first, Powers capped an eight-play, 44-yard drive with a one-yard sprint out. Fehr's kick gave Navy a 20-0 advantage. Powers had kept the drive alive when he avoided a neck tackle 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and found Carl Hendershot for a 27-yard gain.
On Navy's next possession Sherlock, who had 27 yards nullified because of penalties, bounced over from the five to put the game out of reach.
With a 26-0 lead, Welsh was set to flood the field with reserves. But Powers was sacked by three Bulldogs for a 24-yard loss, losing the ball in the process at his 23.
Tracey Shrader, in for a body-sore Russell, three incomplete on first down and was slammed down by Thornton and Huxel on the next play for a two-yard loss. But Shrader went to a quick slant-in on third down and connected with Mark Slawson, who beat cornerback Chuck Zingler for the score with 7:05 to play.
"In a football game, anything can happen," said Welsh. Before you know, it could have been 14-0. "That's why I went back to the first offense to pick up a few first downs and work the clock."
The clock, which did not work all game, was as much an ally of Navy as it was an enemy to Citadel. The fourth quarter seemed to fly, and players from both teams said later they were amazed how soon the game ended.
"We did pretty much what we wanted out there," Powers said. "We made some mistakes, but our offensive line just did a great job of opening big holes for the backs."
Callahan added 70 yards on 14 carries while Tolbert chipped in with 33.
The Citadel netted 96 yards. About the only positive note the visitors could claim was that they had but one penalty. That call, a clip, halted a drive early in the second half.