Wishbone quarterback John Bond left Navy wishing it had played somewhere else tonight, as he scored three touchdowns to lead unbeaten Mississippi State to a 38-10 victory over the Midshipmen.
Tailback Napoleon McCallum provided most of Navy's offense, running for 152 yards in 39 carries. Quarterback Rick Williamson, rushed off his feet most of the night while the Bulldogs broke down Navy's pass blocking, was sacked six times and completed only eight of the 18 passes he was able to unload.
"I was afraid to pass the ball the second half because we couldn't pass block," said Navy Coach Gary Tranquill. "Any time they wanted to, they came after us and stopped us."
In a desperate attempt to diversify his offense, Tranquill sent cornerback Eric Wallace out as a wide receiver in the fourth quarter and Wallace got behind the State defense for a 46-yard reception. That set up the Midshipmen's only touchdown, on a 17-yard pass from Williamson to tight end Mark Stevens.
By then, however, the game was out of reach. Mississippi State, unable to score on its first seven possessions, suddenly caught fire late in the second quarter and Navy never was able to locate the extinguisher. The last seven times it had the ball, State rolled up five touchdowns and a field goal, being foiled only by Wallace's spectacular interception.
So swiftly did the Bulldogs strike that Navy wound up the leader in time of possession, 33:25 to 26:35. Of State's five touchdown drives, which ranged from 45 yards to 80, only one took more than eight plays or four minutes. That was the last, an 80-yard advance guided by second stringer Tim Parenton after Bond had gone to his reward.
"I really didn't anticipate the numbers we had on the board," said State Coach Emory Bellard.
"After a quarter and a half, we had complete command of the offense. Once we sort of got everything together, we did a lot of things well," said Bellard.
Bond had completed only two of eight passes for minus three yards when he suddenly started clicking after Navy's Todd Solomon was wide right on a 33-yard field-goal try with four minutes left in the first half.
Bond initiated the first scoring drive with a 13-yard pass to Art Mordecai at the left sideline, a success that elicited some sarcastic cheers from the crowd of 45,211. But most of the folks were yelling in earnest after Bond passed to Danny Knight for 20 more, then connected for 38 to halfback Lamar Windham at the Navy nine.
After halfback George Wonsley carved out three yards, Bond finally got the wishbone working the way designer Bellard envisioned. Bond started left and faked a pitch to Windham. When Wallace chose to cover Windham, Bond was able to jog into the end zone.
Although only 2:21 remained in the half, there was more misfortune in store for the Midshipmen. Williamson was sacked by end Eddie Hornback and fumbled, with tackle Pat Swoopes recovering for the Bulldogs at their 46.
The clock read 15 seconds and Bond used six to pass to Knight for 24 yards down the right sideline, then four more for a 12-yard instant replay. That left enough time for Parenton to kick a 35-yard field goal, making it 10-0.
Navy stayed on the ground for 14 straight plays after the intermission, with McCallum gaining 41 yards in eight carries. That moved the Midshipmen from their 20 to the State six, but on third and five Williamson was forced to the air and overthrew Ken Heine in the end zone. Solomon then kicked a 23-yard field goal.
State was virtually unstoppable the rest of the way, twice overcoming holding penalties as it kept the scoreboard numbers spinning.
Bond went four yards around the right side on a third-down play to boost the score to 17-3, completing what was in effect a 73-yard, seven-play drive, since the Bulldogs began on first and 20 at the 27 following a 10-yard walkoff. A 35-yard sweep of left end by halfback Al Rickey Edwards was the highlight.
On Navy's next possession, Williamson overthrew split end Greg Blanchard, who had broken free seven yards behind the State defense. Mark Colby then shanked an 18-yard punt out of bounds at the Navy 45.
Six running plays later, it was 24-3, with Bond covering the last 15 yards around left end, aided by some sloppy Navy tackling.
It became 31-3 in the fourth quarter as State again overcame a holding penalty to roll 48 yards in seven plays. Halfback George Wonsley went over from the two after Bond had dashed eight yards to the Navy four on a fourth-and-one keeper.
Stevens' touchdown, on his fourth reception of the game, was matched by Kenny Rogers, a third-string State halfback, on a five-yard run in the final minute.
Besides the game, Navy lost guard Jeff Johnson with a shoulder injury and rover Eric Fudge, who forced one of State's two lost fumbles on a vicious tackle, with a sprained ankle.