Navy quarterback Fred Reitzel, who completed a sizzling 60 percent of his passes and threw for five touchdowns in his first four games, said today he had a funny feeling he would go through a bad stretch at some point of the season.
What he didn't expect was that his bad stretch would nearly cost him his starting assignment.
"I couldn't explain it," Reitzel said. "Maybe the pressure began to get to me. I was going along great, then I had a bad streak. Plus, I knew Tom (Tarquinio) was looking over my shoulder, ready to come in for me. That didn't help my confidence, either.
"But, I deserved to be taken out. I just had to get it together. I'm just glad Coach (George) Welsh stuck with me."
Welsh said he considered benching Reitzel, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior who switched from free safety to quarterback this season, in favor of the fast-improving sophomore Tarquinio, but he chose to use Tarquinio in relief of Reitzel instead.Tarquinio played well in appearances against Notre Dame, Syracuse and Georgia Tech.
"After the Tech game, we thought about switching quarterbacks," Welsh said. "But Reitzel had given us good play at the position most of the year and we decided to stick with him. He deserved to be our starter."
While Reitzel, who has completed 76 of 163 passes for 908 yards and seven touchdowns, will start Sunday against Houston in the Garden State Bowl in the Meadowlands, Welsh said Tarquinio would "definitely see some action in the first half, regardless of the situation."
On target in Navy's 33-6 trouncing of Army two weeks ago, Reitzel (12 of 18 for 138 yards) says he feels confident. He also knows his playing time in the bowl game will depend on his early performance.
"I am just going out and do the best I can," Reitzel said. "This game is a reward for having a good year. There's no hassle attached to the game, like an Army-Navy game. Being a senior, winning this one would be a good way to end a career. It would be nice to go out and throw for 250 yards and a touchdown and maybe score once. I just want to have a good game."
If the Cougars play the same caliber of pass defense they did in the regular season, Reitzel might get his wish. While Houston has been strong against the run, it has been unable to contain passers. The Cougars are ranked in the Southwest Conference in pass defense, although they have made 17 interceptions.
"Houston might be 6-5 but I'm worried about them," Welsh said. "They have so much speed and quickness and are big on defense. It's too late in the season to make any changes so we'll go with what has worked for us all year. Our strength is the run and they are strongest against the run. We may throw a bit more than usual because we may have to."
Both teams will almost be at full strength. Many of the Houston players who missed games early in the season because of injuries are back. The one player who could give the Mids a rough time is quarterback Terry Elston.A 6-3, 210-pounder, Elston is a bruising runner in Coach Bill Yeoman's veer offense, and an adequate passer.
"I had a bad game against Rice (Houston lost, 35-7) but i am just getting my timing back," said Elston, who missed five games with a dislocated wrist. "We know we are a better team than we look on paper. Navy is a tough team and we'll just have to play error-free ball."
Welsh said flanker Steve Callahan (sprained knee), who missed the Army game, will play. Nose guard Terry Huxel, hampered by bad ankles all season, will also be available.