Navy Coach George Welsh will ask little-used sophomore tailback Duane Flowers to pinch-hit for two players who have rushed for 900 yards this season, in the Mids' game against Virginia here Saturday.
Mike Sherlock (590 yards, four touchdowns) and Steve Callahan (310 yards, two touchdowns) were injured in Saturday's 24-7 victory over William and Mary and will be sidelined indefinitely. Flowers, who has carried the ball only 13 times this year, will get his first start.
"I'm sure his lack of experience will show but he has great potential." Welsh said of Flowers. "He has quick feet. He just hasn't played enough. I'm glad he got a chance to work a little in the game last week."
The 5-10, 182 pound Flowers, an all-Montgomery County performer at Wooton High School in Rockville, caried 12 times for 32 yards Saturday. He showed some good moves, especially on one 13-yard scamper.
Sherlock pulled a hamstring after dashing 59 yards for a touchdown. He rushed for 150 yards and scored twice to lead Navy to its fifth victory in as many games. Callahan has a sprained knee.
Navy, ranked 16th by UPI and 20th by AP, also lost defensive tackle John Merrill (broken foot) and defensive end Reggie Trass (knee sprain) last week.
But Welsh will have nose guard Terry Huxel and offensive tackle Rich Welsh returning Saturday.
While Welsh was pleased with his team's second-half effort against William and Mary, he is concerned over the sudden lack of depth because of injuries.
"(Defensive end Bart) Nixon and (defensive tackle Mike) Matthes both have played a lot so there's no real dropoff on defense," Welsh said. "But the problem is we're short of people right now. If someone else got hurt, we'd have to play people who haven't played much."
Fortunately, the Navy offensive line is still intact so the Mids, averaging 224-yards on the ground, should be able to punch out yardage against the reborn Cavaliers (4-2). In six games, Virginia has allowed its opponents an average of 175 yards rushing but has surrendered only 69 points while posting two shutouts.
Welsh is more worried about the Virginia offense. Backs Tommy Vigorito and Greg Taylor have combined for 1,339 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Each has good speed and has made long touchdown runs.
Another problem for Welsh is exams.Traditionally, the Mids don't play well the following Saturday.
Should Navy experience difficulty running the ball, Welsh said he may be forced to throw 25 to 30 times. Bob Powers has had problems spotting open receivers and has completed only 24 of 56 passes for 372 yards. He has two touchdowns and three interceptions.
"We don't have the kind of people you need to throw the football well," said Welsh. "Our passing game hasn't worked because of a combination of things, a breakdown here and there. We don't have great speed so it's tough for people to respect us deep.
"But there are other ways to win football games. We can average 50 yards per punt (Lex Lauletta has averaged 31.8 yards on 31 punts, including one for a minus two yards) or we could run a kickoff back for a touchdown, "Welsh said with a laugh. "But I'm not counting on us doing either one."
Nixon, who replaced Trass last week, was selected Ecac defensive player of the week for his 15 tackles . . . Sherlock, who has four 100-yard rushing games, has a career total of 1,110 to rank 13th in Navy history. Callahan has 1,318 to rank seventh and fullback Larry Klawinski is eighth with 1,310.