Today is Desperation Saturday for local college football teams.
Maryland, Navy, Virginia and Howard all are in situations in which they must come away with a victory today if they are to achieve even a portion of their preseason goals.
Maryland (3-3) loser of three straight, plays Wake Forest (3-2) at 1:30 p.m. in Byrd Stadium. A year ago Maryland went into the Wake game with a three-game losing streak and came out with a four-game losing streak. That killed what was left of their Atlantic Coast Conference title hopes and their bowl hopes. The Terps will have to play better defense against Deason quarterback Jay Venuto than they did a year ago if they are to escape a repeat.
Navy was rolling along just fine with a 3-1 record and the nation's No. 1 defense until it encountered winless Air Force a week ago. The Falcons, previously unable to pass against Sister Sledge, threw against the Mids. The result was a disastrous loss for Coach George Welsh's team. t
Now, Villanova (2-3) comes to Navy-Marine corps Memorial Stadium at 2:00 p.m. today and the Mids badly need a win because Washington, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are still to come -- all on the road. This is Navy's last home game of the season.
Virginia (2-3) is on the road to play arch arch rival Virginia Tech (4-1). The Hokies' record is deceiving because three of their victories are over East Tennessee State, James Madison and Rhode Island.The only respectable opponent they have beaten was Wake Forest, in the season opener.
Virginia has led at the half the last two weeks against West Virginia and Clemson and lost both games. The 27-24 loss to Clemson last week was particularly disheartening because UVA led, 24-10, late in the third quarter, only to lose on the last play of the game. The Cavaliers need a win to get their confidence back and because their schedule the rest of the season includes Rutgers, Tennessee, Wake, North Carolina, and Maryland. Not a breather in sight.
Howard (2-2-1) also faces a game it must win.The Bison, hoping to imporve on last year's 5-6 record, need a victory today at Virginia State (1-4) to keep alive its hopes of a winning season. Virginia State lost its four games and is producing only 133 yards per game.
Other local games today include UDC (2-3) hosting North Carolina Central (4-2) at 1:30 p.m. at Coolige High School; Georgetown (2-0) taking on Johns Hopkins in Baltimore at 2 p.m.; Virginia Union (4-1) visiting Bowie State (0-5-1) at 1:30 p.m. and Catholic, (2-2) but riding high because students voted this week to continue paying to keep the football program alive, playing at St. Francis of Pennsylvania.
Byrd Stadium probably will be no more than 70 percent filled today for a game against a Wake Forest team that is as entertaining as any team Maryland will play all season. The Deacons love to throw and they throw to many different people who run scads of different patterns.
One year ago in Winston-Salem, the Deacs dominated the Terps, leading, 25-9, in the fourth quarter before Mike Tice came off the Maryland bench to produce a touchdown that made the final score respectable.
Tice will start today and may play a key role. The Deacons have been a good team against the run all season. North Carolina burned them last week with the big play offensively and it is likely that Tice will need to produce a couple of those to keep the Terps in command.
Carolina proved last week that the best way to stop Venuto is to keep him from getting rid of the ball, sacking him five times for 40 yards in losses. If Venuto is allowed to stand in the pocket and throw the way Dan Marino of Pittsburgh did two weeks ago, it could be a long day for Maryland. Wake has two superb wide receivers in Wayne Baumgardner and Kenny Duckett, and their running backs also catch the ball well.
The Terps come into the game relatively healthy with defensive guard Greg Vanderhout listed as doubtful with a badly jammed toe. Both Vanderhout and freshman running back Willie Joyner jammed toes wearing a shoe specially molded to support delicate knees.
Virginia is not nearly as healthy as Coach Dick Bestwick would like going into what is annually the biggest game in the state. The Cavaliers have won the last two, meaning Gobbler Coach Bill Dooley has yet to beat his biggest rival since arriving at VPI.
This may be Dooley's best team although it is difficult to tell because of an easy early schedule. Today will be a turning point for both schools. Virginia needs the victory to get back on track toward a winning season. A triumph for VPI would be a major boost toward a bowl bid.
The last time Virginia Tech went to a bowl game was 1968. Its coach that year was Jerry Claiborne.