With his two best tailbacks injured, Coach Gary Tranquill says Navy will increase its passing Saturday when it plays The Citadel. Quarterback Marco Pagnanelli couldn't be happier.
"When a coach talks about opening up the offense and throwing the ball more, that's what a quarterback likes to hear," Pagnanelli said today before practice. "To me, a perfect game would be to pass on every down. In high school we threw on almost every play and I wish it was that way here, but I know you really can't. Teams would adjust to it."
The offensive burden will fall heavily on Pagnanelli this homecoming Saturday because Napoleon McCallum has pulled muscles in his rib cage and Rich Clouse has a pulled hamstring muscle. McCallum is the team's top ground gainer with 436 yards in 96 carries (4.5) and Clouse has contributed 124 yards in 44 attempts.
"We're more battered than we've been all year, but I guess it's that time of the season," Tranquill said. "Losing (cornerback Eric) Wallace (shoulder separation) was a terrific blow to us. We can't tell about Clouse yet because you never know about hamstrings. McCallum hasn't practiced yet, but I expect he'll be there Saturday."
Bryan Caraveo, who has alternated between tailback and fullback, probably will start at tailback, Tranquill said. Caraveo, fourth-team fullback a few weeks ago, was shifted to tailback and responded with 82 yards in 14 carries in last Saturday's 39-3 victory over William & Mary.
Jim Scannell, slowed by injuries earlier in the season, gained 55 yards in eight carries and Tranquill said he probably will start at fullback against The Citadel (3-3), a 3-0 loser to East Tennessee State last week.
"We're going to throw the ball more," Tranquill said about his game plan. "We've been a little too conservative. There were certain things early I was hesitant to do. I wasn't sure we could do them, but Pagnanelli is getting better and better every week.
"If you've got the right trigger, use the gun," the coach continued. "He's the guy that makes things happen."
Pagnanelli made a lot of things happen against William & Mary, completing 18 of 25 passes for 217 yards. He also gained 69 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. The performance earned him offensive player of the week honors in the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
"I'm feeling more and more confident as the season progresses," Pagnanelli said. "I definitely feel I've improved a lot since the opening game (a 20-16 victory over Virginia in which he completed five of 12 passes). Each week I'm a little more relaxed and I'm getting better because we're throwing more."
This has been a season of adjustment for Pagnanelli, who was promoted to a starting role after three games in his sophomore season by former Coach George Welsh. He finished with 80 completions in 140 attempts (.571) for the best passing percentage of any Navy quarterback since Roger Staubach.
"A new coach meant a whole new system," Pagnanelli said. "It was a big chance. Welsh didn't like to throw the ball all that much. Tranquill is more geared to the pass. He has a good understanding of the passing game."
In six games (3-3), Pagnanelli has topped last season's totals by completing 87 of 142 attempts (.613) for 983 yards and seven touchdowns. He has five interceptions, but none in the last three games.
"At the beginning of the season, there wasn't quite so much emphasis on the pass," Pagnanelli said. "As the season's progressed, we seem to be throwing more and more. I think the team will improve each week as the players get more and more comfortable with the system."