In the real world, when a ship's commanding officer becomes incapacitated, the executive officer takes over and the battle goes on. So it is in the world of Navy football, where senior Tom Tarquinio has moved into the key quarterback role for Saturday's game against Notre Dame at East Rutherford, N.J.
There will be no striking of the colors, even though Navy has not beaten the Irish in 19 years, has not scored on them in three and will be without Marco Pagnanelli, who suffered a broken right leg in Saturday's 28-3 victory over The Citadel.
"I hate to get the chance in these circumstances," Tarquinio said today. "I feel really bad, because Marco was having such a good year. Everybody on the sidelines could hear the bones snap and it wasn't too pleasant. I saw him at the hospital Sunday, and he's really down.
"But it happened and now we have to forget it and look forward."
If Tarquinio could think of easier situations for a change of command than the week of the Notre Dame game, he is conceding nothing to the Irish, whose coaches looked at films of his high school exploits in Beaver, Pa., and passed him over because he was considered too small.
"We can't go in being intimidated," said Tarquinio, a 6-foot, 175-pounder. "They have a lot of tradition and they intimidate a lot of teams before the game ever starts. We have to go in believing in ourselves as a team and believing we can win.
"They're not invincible. That's why you play the game, to see who wins. They are tough defensively against the run, so we'll have to throw to try to open them up."
Pagnanelli's injury left Navy's offensive team in a temporary state of shock Saturday, but Tarquinio eventually managed to get it moving. He hung in the pocket well, throwing an instant before he was hit, to complete a 39-yard pass to tight end Mark Stevens. Later, he led the Midshipmen 51 yards in six plays for a touchdown, made on a nine-yard pass to flanker Ken Heine.
Tarquinio proved his worth as a sophomore, when he relieved struggling quarterback Fred Reitzel and led the Midshipmen to late-season victories over Syracuse and Georgia Tech.
Last season, it was generally assumed that Tarquinio would be the No. 1 quarterback. However, his problems with a tender hamstring and the ascendancy of Pagnanelli, a transfer student, left him in the lurch.
"My major problem has been injuries at the wrong times," Tarquinio said. "I've had a pulled hamstring three times, a dislocated thumb on my throwing hand and I had a virus in preseason my sophomore year. I'm not making excuses. With Marco doing such a fantastic job, it was hard to get an opportunity to play."
Tarquinio brings with him a store of football knowledge, assimilated as a result of having a football coach for a father. His dad, Pat Tarquinio, still is the coach at Beaver High School, where Tom played.
"One of the best experiences I've had was playing for my father, living football all the time," Tom said. "I hope we give him something to yell about on Saturday."