In this small, scenic city on the Severn Rivere, seafood, sailboats and the exploits of former Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel command more attention than the Naval Academy's nationally ranked football team.
Despite its 4-0 mark and 18th ranking in this week's UPI poll and last season's finest record (9-3) and first bowl appearance in 15 years, Navy has yet to work its way into the hearts of the city's residents.
"In the back of your mind, you have to think about it," said Navy quarterback Bob Powers. "You would like the people in the city to support you. Maybe people still remember the bad years. I guess, last year people weren't sure if we would take a nose dive.
"Maryland football is a big thing around here. People are used to being identified with a winner," Powers said. "I certainly don't think we're a step below Maryland. Anyway, we're winning and that's important. And we're ranked. That's a good feeling."
While the 4,400 midshipmen are talking up their team, business goes on as usual for Annapolis residents.
"I'm aware they're over there," said Dan Scallio, an employe of one of the city's food store. "I can see a difference in business on Saturday when they are playing. The cars take up all the parking spaces. No one is in the store during the games."
Middie followers, perhaps spoiled by last year's Cinderella season, have had to sweat this season. After whipping The Citadel reelatively easily 26-7, the Middies experiences some difficulty in downing Conneceticut, 21-10, Illinois, 13-12, and Air Force, 13-9.
"We can't sneak up on anyone like we did last year," said rover back Gregg Milo. "Teams are finding a lot of little things to use against us. They are preparing for use a little harder. We'd like to match or better last year's record but it's going to be tough."
Thus far, Navy has beeen a world-beater in the statistical department. It's 1,067 rushing total and 266.7 average in ninth highest among NCAA 1-A schools, its 71.2 rushing defense is third in the nation and its total defense of 756 yards allowed ranks sixth.
Navy's strength is in its lines. The offensive front five of tackles John Taylor and Rich Welch, guards Frank McCallisteer and Tom Feldman and center Rick Bott have been extremely successful opening holes for the running backs.
Mike Sherlock, one of the nation's leading running backs, ahead of such notables as USC's Charles White and Oklahoma's Billy Sims earlier in the season, has rushed for 440 yards on 81 attempts, a gaudy 5.4 average. He has scored three times. His aternate, Steve Callahan, has picked up 311 yards on 64 carries and scored two touchdowns, both in Navy's win over Air Force.
Fullback Larry Lkawinski, when not blocking for Sherlock or Callahan, has chipped in with 106 yards on 23 carriers.
Because the running game has been so successful, Welsh has used the two-tight-end alignment much of the time for additional blocking.
"That's not exactly a good passing formation," said Welsh. "But as long as we're moving the ball, we will continue not to throw a lot. We called 18 pass plays last week and I think we threw 12. Our passing game is still a problem. Powers is not reluctant to throw. Maybe his inexperience back there is showing some. But he has only two interceptions and that's good."
The offense has been virtually unstoppable between the 20s, averaging 35298 yards per game. But the touch-downs have been scarce, only nine in four games.
Except for some defensive break-downs last week, Navy's defense has played well. Senior defensive end and All-American candidate Charlie (Thunder) Thornton, defensive end Reggie Trass, tackles Steve Chambers and John Merrill and nose guard Terry Huxel have had their way up front, stopping the majority of running plays before they get started. The longest running play from scrimmage against the Mids is 15 yards.
Linebackers Mike Kronzer and Tom Paulk are one-two in first hits with 53 and 41, respectively.
"Defensively, we have played pretty well," said Thornton, the team leader in spirit and sacks with six. "We just haven't put together that perfect game of four good quarters."
The Middies have had problems in the secondary. Air Force quarterback Dave Ziebart found enough seams to complete 16 to 28 for 195 yards. Although many of Ziebart's completions were to his back, Welsh was concerned because too many reveivers were running around unescorted.
"Last year, when we were 4-0, people were saying we had't been tested," said Welsh, "They can't say that now. We're winning but we've been scared."
The waters don't get any shallower this week or in the week to come. Navy travels to Norfolk to play William & Mary (2-3) in the Orster Bowl before meeting Virginia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Army.
"We definitely will have to more consistent before we go against the Pitts and Notre Dame," said Feldman.
Many Navy players believe another dream season is at hand. Should the Middies duplicate or better their '78 season, they are convinced the disbelievers in Annapolis will begin to support them and speak of them in the same breath as the University of Maryland.
"I don't think we're thought of as a second to Maryland, although I know they get most of the attention," said Chamber. "People are beginning to come around to see us. I know I have a lot of friends who are starting to ask for tickets."
Several Annapolis residents interviewed today said they knew Nacy had been winning lately but felt the acadeemy was not a part of the city.
"I don't get that wrappeed up with them. They're kind of cliquich," said Elena Gilden. "I would rather see the Colts play. It's nothing personal against Navy. I'm from a military family. I would like to see them win every game except the one against Army."
One man said he had no idea Navy was doing as well as it is.
"I haven't heard a thing about Navy since Roger Staubach left," said Bruce Addison. "Are they winning? I guess I'll have to go to a game. We see enough of them walking around so we know the academy is here. But winning again, I'm glad to hear that."
Many players and residents say a game against Maryland (they last met in 1965) would help the academy.
"I think Navy could give them a good game," said Robert Taylor, an assistant managere at a food store. "I've always followed Navy and they have a fine team. They have a good program."
The Navy players only smiled at the thought of meeting the Terps on the football field.
"It bothers me to some extent that Maryland gets all the attention," said Feldman. "I guess around here, Maryland football is first. All we can do is go out and do the job. We're playing for the people of Annapolis and the U.S. Navy. People will have to accept us soon."