Despite his fourth-quarter heroics last week in rallying Navy past Syracuse, seldom used quarterback Tom Tarquinio will be back on the sideline when the offense takes the field Saturday to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
But the 6-foot, 170-pound sophomore has been told he will play Saturday and against Army Nov. 29.
"I know Fred (Reitzel) is still the No. 1 quarterback and I fully accept that," said Tarquinio, who relieved a struggling Reitzel in Syracuse and engineered two long drives, the first leading to the winning field goal, the second using up the final 6 1/2 minutes. "That game was good for my confidence and I feel I can do the job if I'm called on. You have to just be prepared to go in when called. You never know when the coach will call you.
"I was told at halftime I might be going in so I was sort of prepared. I wasn't nervous and I felt I could handle the job.After that first play, I was pretty calm."
Navy Coach George Welsh, who knows a victory over Tech could land his team a bowl bid, said he wouldn't hesitate to use the poised Tarquinio if the Mids get into trouble. In fact, Welsh said, there are plans to play Tarquinio the rest of the year, regardless.
"Of course, if Reitzel gets hot, Tarquinio might not play as much as we hope to use him," Welsh said. "He missed a lot of work during the spring and the summer drills because of an injury and an illness and he's had to get his work in during the season. That's a little tough. But he's worked hard and we felt he had practiced well enough to warrant some playing time.
"We play two nose guards, two tail-backs, two tight ends, why shouldn't we play two quarterbacks? Besides, our offense is the same. No secrets, we just hand off to the tailback."
Though Welsh is more concerned with winning the remaining two regular season games, the thought of having a fairly experienced quarterback next season was a happy one.
"Our quarterback situation will be the best we've had since I've been here," the coach said. "Right now, Tarquinio is the leader in the department. Tarquinio is very poised, intelligent, has quick feet and an avergage arm. He doesn't get flustered at all in tough spots."
On Tarquinio's one incompletion of five passes he threw at the Orange, he barely missed end Dave Dent on a corner pattern from the seven-yard line. On the next down, Navy kicked its winning field goal. On the second drive, Tarquinio tried a sneak from the two-yard line and was inches short as the gun sounded.
"It would have been nice to score," Taraquinio said with a laugh. "But then I didn't really care because we had the game won at that point. It was a nice feeling after the game. I was glad I got a chance."
Even Reitzel, who has been in somewhat of a slump lately after a good start, had to admit that Tarquinio did an excellent job in relief.
Tarquinio, who has thrown only 18 times, completing 13, did come in for several plays in Navy's 33-0 trouncing by Notre Dame two weeks ago, but that appearance went unnoticed because of the lopsided score.
"Even though the game was out of hand, Tarquinio played well against Notre Dame," Welsh said. "Going in under those conditions didn't bother him at all. And, actually, he's a better game player than a practice player.
Tech (1-7-1) stopped the potent Notre Dame running attack cold last week in coming away with a 3-3 tie. If the Georgians' defense performs anywhere near as well this week, Navy will need to throw to win.
"Tech blitzed maybe 35 times against Notre Dame. And if they can stop Notre Dame's running game, they sure can stop ours," Welsh said. "It's tough to counter the blitz, but I would say we would have to throw more than usual. And we have to throw the ball better. It's not just the quarterback, it's the dropped passes, the pass protection breakdown. Reitzel wasn't benched last week, we just changed quarterbacks. Tarquinio came in and played very well."
Welsh said fullback Duane Flowers, defensive tackle Steve Chambers and linebacker Ted Dumbauld, all out last week with injuries, probably will play against the Yellow Jackets. . . Tech has beaten the Mids 13 times in 19 meetings. In both 1975 and '79, Navy was 6-3 and needed to beat Tech to gain a bowl bid. Both times the Mids lost.