Duke is 3-0 with a quarterback, Ben Bennett, who is rated the No. 3 passer in the nation and has not thrown an interception in his last 107 attempts. Navy is 1-2 and gave up four touchdown passes in a 31-0 loss to Boston College Saturday.
If that sounds like a no-win situation for the Midshipmen when the teams meet Saturday in Durham, N.C., nobody here is ready to concede anything.
"Three and oh with no interceptions? Sounds like they're ready to be beat if we get our stuff together," said senior defensive tackle Paul Soares. "At Arkansas, our defense couldn't stop them. Against BC, our offense had trouble. This week, we're due for a big game both ways."
Soares gave notice Saturday that he finally is ready to play the way he did a year ago, when he was credited with 15 tackles for losses, just one behind team leader Tim Jordan.
"We didn't block their left tackle (Soares) all day," Boston College Coach Jack Bicknell said after a game in which Soares sacked quarterback Doug Flutie eight yards behind the line, nailed tailback Howie Brown for a yard loss and pounced on a fumbled BC pitchout after making a quick penetration into the backfield.
Another incident Saturday will explain why Soares has been slow to live up to the big-play label Coach Gary Tranquill pinned on him at the start of the season.
Navy moved into a nickel defense, substituting a linebacker for Soares. He was slow to leave the field and, when the coaching staff screamed at him to hurry, he was detected shouting something back.
"I was yelling that I was going as fast as I could on my bad ankle," Soares said. "They got the message, because after that they took out another lineman on nickel situations."
Soares suffered a severely sprained left ankle three weeks before the season opener. But he was in action in the opener against Virginia, playing about half the game. Although he went the route against Arkansas and Boston College, Soares was below par and only this week has he begun to feel comfortable.
"The biggest thing about recovering from an ankle is the takeoff," Soares said. "Whenever my foot slips, I feel a heckuva pain. I missed three weeks of practice and, since I've been back, I haven't been able to practice well. That means I can't play as well.
"This week, it's been pretty good. Also, we've been getting more experience together in the line. So far, the linebackers have been making an exceptional number of tackles. But as the season goes on, you'll see the number of tackles on the line go up. We're all good athletes, but I'm the only guy at a familiar position, and I moved from the right side to the left."
Rick Pagel, the right tackle, was an offensive guard a year ago, while Steve Peters, the middle guard, was a defensive tackle.
"Last year, we had a great pass rush and I think we're about ready to do it again," Soares said. "Duke's quarterback doesn't like to run out of the pocket, so we'll be going after him Saturday. We'd better be good."