Navy's defense stopped Syracuse tailback Joe Morris today and Steve Fehr kicked a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth period, enabling the Midshipmen to escape with a 6-3 victory before a disappointed crowd of 50,035 at the Carrier Dome.
Navy's injury-riddled defensive unit limited the elusive 5-foot-8, 184-pound Morris to 67 yards on 23 carries and Syracuse gained only 212 yards. Morris, a junior, is his school's all-time leading rusher.
The victory was assured when Navy defensive back Jon Ross intercepted a Syracuse pass with 6:32 remaining and the Mids held onto the ball the rest of the game. The final whistle sounded with Navy inside the Syracuse one-yard line.
"It's the best the defense has played all year," said Navy Coach George Welsh, who had lost three defensive tackles and his second-leading tackler to injuries in the last three weeks. "I was worried about it because we've lost so many people. But they did a good job of containing the Syracuse run most of the time and they came up with three interceptions."
The Mids, now 6-3, probably surprised themselves with the relative ease with which they handled the Orange front line. The longest run from scrimmage was an eight-yard dash by quarterback Dave Warner. Morris finally managed a seven-yard run in the fourth period. The Orangemen (4-5), averaging 216 yards rushing before today, netted only 116.
"We watched him (Morris) all game," said linebacker Mike Kronzer, Navy's defensive leader. "We weren't as worried about their passing attack as we were about their running game. We wanted to keep Morris from breaking one. He's a game breaker."
Navy found another hero of sorts in reserve quarterback Tom Tarquinio. The 6-foot, 170-pound sophomore came in to relieve a struggling Fred Reitzel in the third period and directed two impressive marches, the first one leading to the game-winning field goal.
Welsh said he went to Tarquinio because he "has been getting better and I wanted to play him."
With the score 3-3, Navy began a series at its 19 with two minutes left in the third period. Mike Sherlock, who shared tailback duties with Ed Meyers (98 yards on 25 carries), gained most of his 56 yards on this 5-1/2 minute drive capped by Fehr's game-winning kick withh 12:25 to play.
In the drive, Tarquinio completed passes to Dave Dent and Curt Gainer for first downs. On third and four from the Orange 12, Tarquinio overthrew Dent at the goal line, setting up the field goal.
"I just missed him," said Tarquinio, who completed four of the five passes he tthrew for 41 yards. "It would have been nice to throw a touchdown pass but it doesn't matter."
Fehr was letter-perfect on his kick for the final margin.
"I had no problems with either kick in here," said Fehr, who has made nine of 14 this season. "You don't have to worry about any wind (in the domed stadium)."
Morris couldn't get away from Kronzer, freshman linebacker Andy Ponsiego, starting in place of injured Ted Dumbauld, and nose guard Tim Jordan. Warner was under heavy pressure much of the game when he attempted to pass. He completed 10 of 20 for 113 yards, but was inconsistent.
"We didn't move the ball, we just couldn't score," Warner said. "There weren't a lot of dropped passes, but a few came in critical situations, like the interception."
The interception was a throw that caromed off receiver Marcus Hackett's hands right to Navy cornerback Jon Ross at the Mid 30 with 6:32 to play. The Orangemen had gotten a break when they recovered Greg Papajohn's fumble at the Mid 47 and were driving when Warner was intercepted.
That was the last time Syracuse had the ball. Tarquinio mixed his plays well, alternating Meyers and Sherlock up the middle, as the clock ticked down. Tarquinio also made three good plays himself, picking up first downs to keep possession. On his last carry, he tried a sneak from the one but was stopped inches short of scoring his first college touchdown. he didn't get another chance because the gun sounded, ending a long afternoon for frustrated Syracuse.
The Orangemen, who had beaten Navy three consecutive games and 12 times in the last 17 years, broke on top first. Kevin Tolbert's fumble was recovered by Orange linebacker Craig Bingham at his 49. Six plays and a 15-yard penalty against Navy later, Gary Anderson kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 3-0 Syracuse lead with 6:13 left in the first period.
Navy drew even early in the second quarter. Starting from its 42, Navy, with a 25 yard run from Meyers, moved to the nine. On third down, Reitzel, who completed only five of 13 passes for 37 yards before he was replaced, missed Gainer at the goal line. Fehr kicked a 31-yard field goal with 11:53 left before intermission.
Syracuse had other decent scoring chances. But two promising drives in the second yarter ended with interceptions by Elliott Reagans. The only other Orange threat ended with Ross' interception.