Navy, which has called upon its superb defense to bail it out the last few games, found a new way to win today.
Quarterback Bob Powers, better known for his running than his throwing, completed two big passes to keep an 80-yard drive alive before scoring on a six-yard run with 1:20 to play. It lifted the undefeated Mids over stubborn Virginia, 17-10, before 22,604 at Naviy-Marine Corps Stadium.
Virginia kicker Wayne Morrison had booted a school-record 50-yard field goal with 3:26 left to tie the game, 10-10, before Powers engineered Navy's most impressive march of the season.
"There was silence on the sideline after that field goal," much-relieved Navy Coach George Welsh said. "I felt we'd come back. I was just afraid we'd score too soon."
Welsh's concern was justified. Virginia quarterback Todd Kirtley, a sophomore out of Robinson High in Fairfax County, Va., completed two passes to Ted Marchibroda from Fairfax's Stuart High in the final minute to move his team to the Navy 33 with 25 seconds left. But the Navy pass rush, hardly a factor before then, forced Kirtley into three hurried tosses. Linebacker Ted Dumbauld intercepted Kirtley's fourth try and the 6-0 Mids, ranked 16th by UPI and 20th by AP, finally could relax.
There was no relaxing on Navy's winning march, however. Duane Flowers, replacing injured tailbacks Mike Sherlock and Steve Callahan, made the most of his first start in his two years at the academy. The smooth-running back from Wootton High in Rockville, Md., slipped in and out of the grasps of Virginia tacklers for 136 yards on 27 carries, and scored on a 28-yard run. Flowers carried four times on the long march for 25 yards and came within a step of sprinting 69 yards for what would have been the game winning score.
Flowers burst through a large hole and sprinted 15 yards to the Virginia 46. But, just as he was about to turn on the speed, he tripped over a Cavalier defender's foot. Flowers had done his job. Now it was Powers' turn.
After a Flowers run resulted in a two-yard loss, Powers threw a perfect bullet to Greg Pappajohn on a crossing pattern, gaining 25 yards to the Cavalier 30. Two plays later, Powers connected again, this time to favorite receiver Dave Dent, who made the reception at the 15, juked his defender and snaked his way down the sideline before being knocked out of bounds at the six-yard line.
Powers had a woeful first half, completing one of seven passes for minus one yard. But on the next play, Powers, who finished with nine completions in 19 tries for 111 yards, sprinted to his left on the option play. The hard-running 6-foot-4, 207-pound senior chose not to pitch the ball to an all-alone Flowers. Instead he dipped inside and carried two Virginia players into the end zone.
"I should have pitched it, I think," Powers said. "But I'm so used to ducking up with the ball, I just kept it. I saw a little room but there was a guy standing there. He could have made the play."
The Mids, who had defeated Virginia in 23 of their 26 meetings coming into today's game, made the big plays when they had to.
After a scoreless first period, Navy's Chris Boblit pounced on a muffed punt by the Cavs' return man, Pat Chester, at the Virginia 29. Seven plays later Steve Fehr kicked a 27-yard field goal to put Navy on top, 3-0, with 1:39 left in the first half.
But Virginia (4-3), averaging 255 yards per game and boasting two fine running backs in Greg Taylor and Tom Vigorito, shocked the Mids by charging 74 yards to go ahead, 7-3.
Kirtley's 47-yard bomb to flanker Andre Grier took the Cavs down field in a hurry. Virginia's longest pass play of the year moved the ball to the Navy 31. Two more Kirtley completions moved the ball to the Mid 10. The quarterback then aimed a high floater for 6-5 Louis Collins, who easily grabbed the ball over 5-9 defender Jon Ross in the end zone.
"I sort of expected that pass play," Ross said. "I didn't see the ball. I read his eyes and turned but there was nothing I could do then."
Morrison's boot gave Virginia a 7-3 lead with 24 second left in the first half.
Flowers, getting excellent blocking from his offensive line, especially in the second half, put Navy back in front in a hurry. Five running plays -- three by Flowers and two by Powers, and a 15-yard face mask penalty advanced the ball from the Navy 36 to the Virginia 28. Flowers got a nice block from fullback Larry Klawinski and raced 28 yards for his first Navy TD. Fehr's kick made it 10-7 with 2:54 gone in the third quarter.
"I felt a man hit me (Bryan 'holoman missed the tackle at the 15) but nothing was stopping me then." said the 5-11, 187-pound sophomore. "When I saw daylight, I said, 'let these wheels move.'"
Navy did everything it could to gain some breathing room.
After recovering a Vigorito fumble, Navy drove to the Virginia 11, where it was faced with fourth and one.
"We considered the field goal but a touchdown would have changed things," said Welsh. "We had a good pass play called and the tight end was open in the end zone."
Powers' pass was deflected by 6-8, 250-pound Dave Sullivan and the ball landed in the arms of Navy tackle John Taylor, who was tackled.
"I didn't know what to do," Taylor said. "I just knew we didn't want to tie these guys."
Later in the quarter, Navy gambled again on fourth and one, and this time was successful at the Virginia 27. But the Cavs' defense stiffened and 'fehr's attempted 31-yard field goal missed.
Navy had to concern itself with stopping the elusive Taylor (46 yards on 14 carries) and Vigorito (63 on 18).
"You knew one mistake and they were gone," said Navy defensive end Charlie Thornton.
The running tandem could do nothing against the hustling 'mids' 5-2 defense and Kirtley was forced to throw. He managed only 13 completions in 29 attempts for 199 yards.
Kevin Tolbert's fumble at the Virginia 35 gave the visitors a chance to tie.Kirtley's 25-yard pass to Marchibroda moved the ball to the Navy 36 with 4:26 to play. But Taylor's two-yard run and two incompletions brought on Morrison. The soccer-style kicker made his 50-yarder with room to spare.
"We thought we could win it," Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick said. "It was the kind of plays -- the Chester fumble, the face mask call, the fourth down plays by Navy -- that we had to have."
Navy, which outgained the Cavs, 349 yards to 316, didn't need a fourth-down play on its final drive.
"No time for that," Powers said. "The guys ran nice routes and I got good protection. So far, we've always found a way to win."