Quarterback Fred Reitzel scored three touchdowns, one on a recovery of a teammate's fumble, and the nation's fourth-ranked defense turned Washington's emplosive offense into ashes today as underdog Navy stunned the nationally ranked Huskies, 24-10.
"This has to rank as one of the top wins since I've been at Navy; I think it was probably one of the great wins in Navy history," said Coach George Welsh. "These kind of games are tougher to win because we're playing better people, but I've got to be honest and say that nothing takes the place of beating Army. If you lose one, like we did in 1977, it's a long year until you get another chance."
"Like they said in the paper, it was nice for them to have an easy game after they beat Stanford," Reitzel said. "I don't think they were ready for us. They just didn't play very well and we wanted to play well."
Navy, now 5-2, played an exceptional game against a team that had been averaging 37 points and had a big edge in size and experience. The Mids committed only one turnover, a third-period pass interception, and took advantages of some egregious errors by the Huskies, who fell 5-2.
"We've made some of the stupidest errors I have ever seen," said Washington Coach Don James. "We had a lack of concentration. We had no respect at all for Navy. Mentally and emotionally, we were not ready to play."
Only 41,211 showed up in 59,800-seat Husky Stadium to watch the scorned visitors from the East and they found very little to cheer, as Navy scored a touchdown on its first posession and led all the way.
The two key plays were fourth-period fumbles, however, one by each team, and both recovered by the alert Mids.
With Navy leading, 17-10, tallback Eddie Meyers lost the ball at the Washington two and it skipped into the end zone. Reitzel, training the play, used his old skills as a defensive back to beat cornerback Ray Horton to the ball for the touchdown.
"On all sweeps I'm supposed to block, so I was looking for somebody to block and I saw the ball come loose," Reitzel said. "I went for it and I was lucky enough to beat him to it."
More than nine minutes remained and Washington's offense suddenly came alive. The Huskies, aided by Navy's first two penalties of the game, for a personal foul and pass interference, drove to the Navy two. There fullback Toussaint Tyler lost the ball on a handoff and defensive tackle Chris Garner recovered for Navy.
Tyler, unconvinced shoved the wall into the referee's nose and Washington was assessed a 15-yard penalty, permitting Navy to start from its 18. There was no further doubt about the outcome.
Reitzel, who completed only six of 15 passes for 104 yards, ran for Navy's first two touchdowns. He picked up 55 yards in 10 carries, frequently ducking under charging linemen for key first downs.
"I dropped back and looked for receivers and saw some alleys open up, so I saw no reason to force the pass," Reitzel said. "We were ahead and I didn't want to risk giving the ball away."
"He's a very good runner," James said. "The thing that amazes me, this is only his first year as quarterback."
Reitzel has made some mistakes since his conversion from safety, but the only one that hurt today came early in the third period, with Navy ahead, 10-0. His off-target pass was intercepted by linebacker Jerry McLain at the Mids' 25 and McLain, after having the ball slip behind his leg, secured it with his knees and ran to the Navy 21.
The crowd became noisy, the Huskies were boiling over after James' halftime remarks and it seemed the game might be turning around. On first down, however, tailback Kyle Stevens was smothered for a two-yard loss by defensive tackle Paul Soares, a replacement for injured Steve Chambers. Following two incomplete passes by Tom Flick, the Huskies settled for Chuck Nelson's 40-yard field goal.
"It hurt us to make a big play and then only get a field goal out of it," James said.
Before the third quarter ended, Navy Marched 73 yards in 10 plays, with Reitzel carrying the last two yards for a 17-3 lead. Meyers, who rolled up 114 yards in 17 carries even though he did not start, gained 25 in four attempts on the drive. Reitzel converted the only third down with a 14-yard pass to Mike Sherlock and sprinted 18 yards to the Washington six on a keeper.
Following that score, Washington seemingly sealed its doom, as Ron Blacken signaled a fair catch on the kickoff, before throwing what was to have been a surprise lateral to the opposite side of the field. The Huskies penalized for illegal procedure, were starting out from their four, first and 14.
The Huskies escaped the trap on Flick's 13-yard pass to Anthony Allen and quickly were back in the game, Flick's loss to Aaron Williams covering 69 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-10.
Williams caught the ball at his 45 and seemed to be under Jeff Shoemake's control at the Navy 45, so much that two other Navy defenders deferred to Shoemake and did not attempt a tackle. However, Williams broke loose from Shoemake, stayed in bounds at the right sideline by inches and galloped the last 40 yards to make it 17-10, where it remained only as long as it took the Mids to drive 77 yards to Reitzel's fumble-recovery touchdown.
Reitzel was responsible for some key gains in the scoring drive, too. On third and two at the Navy 23, he picked up three yards around right end. On third and four at the Navy 32, he threw short to Sherlock, who turned it into a 13-yard gain. On third and nine from the Mids' 46, Reitzel hit David Dent, who made a sensational diving catch at the Washington 29. On the play preceding the touchdown, Reitzel dashed 11 yards up the middle to the Husky five.
Washington managed only three first downs in the first 25 minutes, as Navy took advantage of a Washington fumble to score first, then kept the Huskies bottled up in their own territory.
Washington fumbled twice on its first series, finally losing possession as Chambers grabbed Kyle Stevens' bobble at the Washington 46.
The Mids got to the end zone in eight plays, with Reitzel running in from the 10. He faded to pass on third and eight, eluded tackle Fletcher Jenkins' rush and cut inside nose guard Mark Jerue to sprint across, with center Mike Dolan removing the last Husky defender with a chance to tackle Reitzel.
Steve Fehr, after missing on a 39-yard field-goal try, booted one in from 33 yards for a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.
"We came in believing we could win, if we did a lot of things right and didn't make mistakes," said Sherlock, whose 10-yard run on Navy's first play got things started the right way. "Being able to drive on them right away and score a touchdown helped us believe. We realized these guys weren't supermen."
"I think they were kind of cocky," said rover Chris Boblit, who did a fine job defending the Huskies' swing and flat passes. "Even though our defense is nationally ranked, they don't think we play very good football in the East. They don't think we're in their class."