What does it mean to be ranked No. 1 in the nation in defense? According to Coach George Welsh, whose Midshipmen hold the top defensive rating among major colleges, such statistics mean nothing unless it's the end of the season, or you have been stopping the likes of Southern California, Notre Dame or Michigan.
"It's not like we've played Stanford or Pitt the last two weeks," said Welsh today. "It seems we always get ranked at the wrong time. Being ranked first in defense just gives Boston College more ammunition to shoot at us. We don't have the kind of talent we've had here in previous years but we do have a pretty good defense."
Welsh would be the first to admit the jury is still out on his defensive unit but there's no mistaking the fact that the Mids have looked very impressive in stopping Kent State and William and Mary the last two weeks. Although the Mids lost their opener at Virginia, 6-3, they were tough defensively.
Navy (2-1) allowed but 174 total yards in smashing the Indians, 45-6, last week and has surrendered an average of 159.3 to claim the top spot. Navy has allowed an average of 76.0 yards rushing (ninth in the country) and an average of 83.3 passing (eighth). The Mids already have intercepted nine passes, one more than they grabbed in 1979, recovered four fumbles (nine in '79) and allowed but 15 points, nine of those coming on field goals. The lone touchdown scored against the Mids came on a desperation hail William and Mary bomb in the fourth quarter of last week's game.
"I think part of our success is because the last two teams executed poorly," said Welsh, being conservative with his praise. "We've played better each week but it's too early to say if we're good."
Welsh has been generous in his comments about his offense. Fred Reitzel, the starting safety the last two years, is beginning to settle in at quarterback. He completed 13 of 16 for 207 yards and three scores in the Mids' romp over William and Mary and now has completed 63 percent of his throws. The Navy running game also is beginning to come together.
"We're a better passing team than we've been for some time," Welsh said. "Reitzel is gaining confidence each game and we're blocking better."
Welsh hopes the same Navy team that has scored 76 points in its last two games will show up Saturday for its home date with Boston College. The Eagles, probably the best 1-2 team in the nation, will be breathing fire following their embarrassing 20-9 loss to Villanova.
The Eagles are loaded with D.C.-area players. Former Carroll High all-Mets flanker Robert Rikard (leading receiver with nine catches for 156 yards), defensive backs Rich Dyer and Doug Alston and guard Casey Muldoon are starters. Jon Schoen, formerly of Good Counsel, starts at split end. Reserves include cornerback Kevin Jez of St. John's and defensive end David Thomas of Carroll.
The Eagles always have given the Mids trouble. Navy's lone win in the last five years over BC was a 19-8 victory in 1978. The two teams didn't meet last year.