Red Romo, Navy's trainer for almost three decades, strode purposefully into the Naval Academy Athletic Association offices this morning on a mission that figures to increase the heat on the Scott Stadium AstroTurf in Charlottesville, where the Midshipmen play Virginia Saturday night at 7.
Romo, indignation churning his countenance into colors matched only by his outlandish slacks, was using the office copier to reproduce a Richmond Times-Dispatch story quoting Virginia cornerback Ray Daly's prediction on the outcome of the game: "We'll kill 'em." Obviously, the Navy players would be able to read Daly's alleged comments to their hearts' discontent as they whiled away the hours before the kickoff.
Interest here in Daly's words is heightened by the fact that he earned two letters at the academy before following Coach George Welsh to Virginia a year ago. A starter in Navy's secondary as a sophomore, Daly had an outstanding game as Virginia beat Duke, 38-30, last week, breaking up two passes and making four unassisted tackles.
As for that inflammatory prediction, however, Daly today denied making it. "I was not asked to make a prediction and," he said, "as I recall the conversation, there were no questions asked that might have led up to my making such a comment.
"I'm kind of shaken up thinking about this game," Daly, a St. John's High graduate from Seabrook, Md., said in a telephone interview. "I'm a little nervous and I wish I was out on the field now instead of waiting for it to start. It's an emotional game for them and for me.
"I know their personalities well. After all, I lived with them and went around with them 24 hours for two years. I'm just glad this isn't my first game here. At least, I got a lot of confidence from the win over Duke, after not playing last year."
Daly would have to have a miserable game Saturday for it to produce more frustrations than he felt a year ago as he watched the Cavaliers lose, 20-16, in Annapolis in Welsh's first game as Virginia coach.
"I had mixed emotions that day," Daly said. "I saw some of the Navy guys on the sidelines before the game and talked to them. They didn't hold anything against me for leaving. But once the game started, I was really broken up, with friends on both sides and nothing I could do anyway, except watch.
"The whole season was different. I had a rough time sitting out the year, especially with things going so badly for us (2-9). Practicing every day but not playing was difficult. I answered questions from guys who were just learning Coach Welsh's system, but I couldn't help the team on the field."
Despite the season lost to transferring, Daly feels he made the right decision.
"After my sophomore year at Annapolis, I had to decide whether I wanted to commit five years to the Navy," he said. "I wasn't too hot for a Navy career, so I made the decision to go elsewhere. I looked at a lot of schools, but with Coach Welsh here I picked Virginia. I knew his system well and it made an easier adjustment."
Daly is familiar with Ricky Williamson, the junior who will make his second start as Navy's quarterback Saturday, and he expects Williamson to throw a few in his area before the game is over.
"Rick was the scout team quarterback my sophomore year," Daly said. "He has a really good arm and a good head. He hasn't played a lot, that's the only negative thing.
"They have a good tailback (Napoleon McCallum) and a good backup tailback (Rich Clouse) and I'm sure they'll get both in the game. Their offense is supposedly doing different things and we'll have to be alert. We don't want to get too cocky, just because we've won a game, although beating Duke certainly gave us a good feeling."
If Navy Coach Gary Tranquill has some new plans for Virginia, they are likely to remain secret until game time. So tight has been practice-field security that a manager was embarrassed the other night after he ordered a gentleman in shorts to leave and was asked, "Can't the superintendent watch practice?"
The unrecognized spectator in the casual civvies was the academy's new superintendent, Rear Adm. Charles R. Larson.
Both coaches conceded one plus to Navy, because its plans remain secret, whereas Virginia was well scouted against Duke. But both acknowledged that playing a game was probably an even bigger plus.
"I'd prefer to have played a game," Tranquill said. "You have to take care of your own house first. If we had played a game, I'd have a better idea of where our house stood. Besides, he knows we're not going to change a lot of things. We'll hand the ball to McCallum and throw a few passes."
"We're better physically for having played, and it's nice to win one like that," Welsh said. "For them, as far as Xs and Os, they know what we'll do, because we don't do much different from what we did against Duke."