Both Wake Forest and William and Mary are thinking upset today as they cross the Potomac for difficult games against heavily favored Maryland and Navy.
The Deacons have the tougher task in a 1:30 Atlantic Coast Conference contest at Byrd Stadium because they depend heavily on quarterback Gary Schofield and the Terrapins already have knocked three opposing passers out of action with their strong pass rush.
The Indians have two competent quarterbacks, Stan Yagiello and Dave Murphy, for their 2 p.m. engagement at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium against a Navy team that has been hesitant on defense. Coach Gary Tranquill promises more aggressiveness from the Midshipmen this week and probably will need it.
Schofield has completed 102 of 175 passes for 1,004 yards as Wake Forest has divided its first six games. His favorite receiver is tight end Phil Denfeld of Annandale, who has 23 catches for 155 yards.
A year ago, Wake Forest threw 67 passes, completing 47 for 556 yards, as Maryland defeated the Deacons, 45-33. That day, Wake Forest actually called 81 pass plays, including six nullified by penalties and eight sacks. Schofield completed 43, an NCAA record until it was superseded two weeks later by Brigham Young's Jim McMahon.
Although Maryland's pass defense suffered early against Penn State and West Virginia, the Terrapins have improved in consecutive victories over North Carolina State, Syracuse and Indiana State. Those three teams managed a total of nine points.
"We're coming up to the most important part of our schedule, with three straight conference games," said Maryland Coach Bobby Ross, who obviously wants his club to play Wake with the same intensity it is expected to exhibit the next two Saturdays against Duke and North Carolina.
The Terrapins, if they do not overreact to their increasingly effusive press clippings, have an excellent chance to win their first ACC title since 1976.
Yagiello returns to the William and Mary lineup after missing last week's 24-16 victory over Dartmouth because of a jammed finger. He was taking snaps, the big problem, with almost 100 percent effectiveness yesterday and will be ready for 2-3 Navy.
In four games, Yagiello has completed 84 of 140 passes for 986 yards. Murphy, his capable replacement last week, has completed 46 of 76 for 495.
"Yagiello is quicker and he scrambles better," said Coach Jimmye Laycock. "Murphy is more experienced and reads defenses better."
The principal target has been wide receiver Jeff Sanders of Severna Park, with 32 catches for 471 yards, although anybody except an interior lineman had better be ready for the ball. To illustrate the 2-3 Indians' emphasis on passing, fullback Bobby Wright of Rockville has caught 13 passes; he has rushed only 16 times.
Although he does not plan to shuffle personnel, Tranquill expects his defenders to put considerable pressure on Yagiello and Murphy.
"We haven't been very good on defense," Tranquill said. "I've always been a go-get-'em, sic-'em coach and we haven't been going after them. I think we've been too cautious and he who hesitates on defense is lost.
"We're standing flat footed in one-on-one situations and we're being beaten. I don't expect that to happen Saturday. We've only played five games and we've got six to play. That's a lot of time to get better and we're going to get better."
Howard, 2-4, expects to get better, too, primarily because powerhouse opponents like South Carolina State and Florida A&M are merely unpleasant memories. The schedule softened last week, the Bison beat Delaware State, and they hope to continue the turnabout today in a 1:30 contest against 1-4 Virginia State in Petersburg, Va.
For winless Virginia, it is a welcome day of rest.