Navy earned a Pyrrhic 28-3 victory over The Citadel today, casting a pall over the remainder of the season.
Quarterback Marco Pagnanelli's Navy career came to an end in the third quarter, when he was hit from behind after throwing a pass and fractured the two major bones in his lower right leg.
Additionally, tight end Chris Weiler suffered a broken collarbone and defensive end Chuck Bresnahan sustained torn ligaments of the right knee, with surgery scheduled Sunday. Cornerback Jon Ross was removed in the second period with a slight muscle tear in a shoulder, but should be ready for Notre Dame Oct. 30.
"That was a costly one," said Coach Gary Tranquill. "Maybe we can make a trade for a quarterback. A lot of pros aren't doing anything right now."
Even he found that attempt to slice the despair unavailing.
Although Navy (4-3) outgained The Citadel, 408 yards to 109, the Midshipmen put on an uninspiring performance for the surprisingly large crowd of 29,249 on a cold, windy homecoming at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The offensive highlight for Navy was a 23-yard touchdown pass from tailback Bryan Caraveo to flanker Ken Heine, increasing the score to 14-3 in the second quarter. Caraveo, a fourth-string fullback a short time ago, was starting because tailbacks Napoleon McCallum and Rich Clouse were banged up during last week's 39-3 victory over William and Mary, when cornerback Eric Wallace suffered a shoulder separation.
The Citadel lost four fumbles and had a pass intercepted in the first half, after which Navy led, 21-3.
A bobbled snap by quarterback Gerald Toney on the Bulldogs' second play from scrimmage was grabbed by George Herlong, Navy's alert middle guard, at The Citadel 40. The Midshipmen used nine plays to score, with fullback Andy Skehan diving the final yard.
There were two important plays on the touchdown drive. Pagnanelli ran three yards for a first down on fourth and one from the 31. Then Weiler, the most capable Navy receiver, dived to make a catch out of bounds and landed awkwardly, with the broken collarbone resulting.
A punt blocked by Billy Johnson, which should have been picked up and run for a touchdown, was fallen on by the Bulldogs' Gene Folk at the Navy 24. The Citadel reached the six, but Herlong sacked quarterback Robert Hill for a nine-yard loss and Hank Rhame kicked a 32-yard field goal.
Navy struck back in four plays, following Jon Ross' 28-yard return of a short kickoff. From the Navy 44, Caraveo took Pagnanelli's short pass, broke away from linebacker George Milton and ran 33 yards to the Bulldogs' 23. On the next play, Caraveo threw his option pass for a score.
Late in the second quarter, linebacker Andy Ponseigo intercepted a pass by Toney at The Citadel 40, returning to the 36. The Midshipmen needed four plays to make it 21-3, with Caraveo running two yards through left tackle for the score.
Pagnanelli was hurt as he completed a pass to flanker Greg Brand. He had stepped back after throwing and was hit from behind, with the right leg caving in. After a long delay, he was carried off on a stretcher.
"Both bones in the lower right leg were broken," said Dr. Jay Cox, the team physician. "We were careful not to move him until we applied the air splint, because we didn't want the bones coming out through the skin."
Senior Tom Tarquinio, Pagnanelli's replacement, lifted Navy spirits a trifle by completing a nine-yard touchdown pass to Heine with 2:31 left.
Navy defenders tackled ball carriers for losses 12 times, including seven quarterback sacks. Herlong made four tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Ponseigo and end Travis Wallington were credited with 14 tackles each.
"The defense played a pretty good game, but our offense was lousy," said Tranquill. For The Citadel (3-4), the day's highlight was a 50-yard dash to safety by a cadet who rescued a Confederate flag coveted by a horde of Midshipmen. Coach Art Baker could have used him in a football uniform today.