Everybody respects the Boston College offense, with good reason. Sophomore quarterback Doug Flutie passed for 279 yards and three touchdowns in a 446-yard offensive effort against Navy today in front of 23,016 witnesses in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
For this day at least, the Boston College defense was proving that here is a well-balanced team with potential for a memorable season. Boston College won, 31-0, limiting the Midshipmen to 252 yards. The Eagles are now 2-0-1 after three tough road games.
Navy (1-2) reached Boston College territory eight times, getting as far as the 5, 7, 16 and 18. Twice the Midshipmen failed to make first downs following third-and-one situations, and once on third and two.
"We stopped them fourth-and-short a lot and we were totally confident that we could stop them," said linebacker T.J. Fitzpatrick, whose credits for the day included 10 tackles, two passes batted down and a fumble recovery after stripping the ball from Rich Clouse.
"I don't think our defense ever let up," he said.
"They gave us the short-yardage defense we expected; they didn't change anything," Navy Coach Gary Tranquill said. "We ran what we thought would go against it, but obviously we didn't execute properly."
Most of Navy's offense was centered around tailback Napoleon McCallum, who caught eight passes for 72 yards, including a 54-yarder; ran for 43 yards in 10 carries and returned a punt 34 yards to the Boston College 18.
What happened at that point, with Boston College leading, 7-0, in the second quarter, typified the Midshipmen's frustrations. On first down, Navy was called for clipping in the end zone--while Marco Pagnanelli was running the ball to the 14. After a short completion and two bad passes, Steve Young missed a 41-yard field-goal try.
"We had every conceivable mistake one could make in the first half," Tranquill said. "We had dropped balls, fumbles, that clip in the end zone. We can't be that inconsistent."
Still, it was 7-0 at halftime, after Boston College's Kevin Snow was wide on a 35-yard field-goal attempt at the gun. The Eagles had outgained Navy, 215 yards to 74, and had penetrated Navy territory five times with only one success, an eight-yard touchdown pass from Flutie to tight end Scott Nizolek at the end of an 87-yard drive.
"I was very concerned at halftime," said Boston College Coach Jack Bicknell. "We had a lot of opportunities but we were not playing well offensively. We were fumbling the ball and making basic mistakes. . . I was a nervous wreck, because they always seem to come back."
Flutie quickly eased Bicknell's doubts. After the defense forced a punt, Flutie and flanker Brian Brennan combined on a 45-yard touchdown pass that made it 14-0. The pass was aimed toward the left sideline and safety Kurt Dixon tried to intercept it at the 35 and failed. Brennan, barely able to stay in bounds, scored untouched.
On Navy's next five possessions, it reached the Boston College seven, 34, 38, five and 16 without scoring.
McCallum caught a pass by Pagnanelli at the line of scrimmage--the Navy 17--shook free from a tackler and ran 54 yards to the Eagles' 29. On third and one from the seven, Pagnanelli threw beyond the end zone, then McCallum was stopped for no gain.
Driving back to the Boston College 34, Pagnanelli lost a yard on a third and one keeper. On fourth down, Steve DeOssie made a great play to stop McCallum for no gain as he caught a flat pass from Pagnanelli.
Two incomplete passes at the Boston College 38 prompted Tranquill to order a fourth-down punt. It reaped benefits, after Boston College's Vic Crawford made a fair catch at the six, when Steve Strachan dropped the ball on a first-down slant at his 10 and Navy's Eric Rutherford recovered.
Two runs and an incomplete pass later, the Midshipmen faced fourth and goal from the five. Tranquill, thinking of the previous failures, opted for a field goal, but Junior Poles blocked Young's kick.
The next time, Navy reached third and two at the 16, only to have tackle Norm Smith move before the snap. On fourth down, safety David Pereira intercepted Pagnanelli.
Flutie finally ended any doubts about the outcome with 8:46 left, throwing to Brennan for a 13-yard touchdown pass to conclude a 66-yard, six-play drive in which he completed all four passes for 62 yards.
A first-down interception by defensive end Doug Guyer, a quarterback until Flutie beat him out, set up a 30-yard field goal by Snow. Then senior quarterback John Loughery closed the scoring on a 26-yard pass to tight end Scott Gieselman with 30 seconds left.
"Everybody talks about our offense, but without our defense we lose," Bicknell said. "We had a good pass rush and we kept Pagnanelli in the pocket. He didn't hurt us with the scramble and he didn't hurt us with the screen wide."
Looking at that zero, Bicknell wasn't hurting at all.