An optimist attending Navy's 30-0 victory over Lehigh today would have pointed out that the Midshipmen had shut out the Engineers two consecutive times (the last in 1913), but Navy Coach Gary Tranquill said he was not especially pleased with his offense, despite the team's first victory this season.
"I saw the same situations in the first half that I saw in our last two games (losses to Virginia and Mississippi State)," he said. "We miss blocks; if a guy is open, we overthrow, and we just don't make the plays.
"We've got to get better."
After a sluggish first half in which they scored only a field goal, the Midshipmen did "get better" enough to present Lehigh (1-2) with its first shutout in 68 games. Third-quarter touchdowns by Napoleon McCallum and Ken Heine, and touchdowns in the final quarter by Greg Brand and Rich Clouse provided almost as much excitement as the parachutists who dropped in at halftime.
"The defense kept us in the game," Tranquill said. "The offense didn't keep us close for a while. We did finally get some tempo in the second half."
The turning point that provided Navy (1-2) with a much-needed lift came on Heine's touchdown catch. At the Lehigh 16, on second and 15, Heine reached out and caught the ball, seconds after Williamson had overthrown it in the same spot.
"You need a big play like that once in a while," Tranquill said.
During the early part of the game, it seemed the only lift for Navy came off Todd Solomon's kicking foot. His 27-yard field goal finished a 12-play, 57-yard drive.
Williamson had completed passes to tailback McCallum repeatedly, accounting for three first downs, but Williamson's pass to Chris Weiler in the end zone was overthrown. Solomon's kick salvaged the drive at 8:42.
Lehigh's passing game, for which Navy had prepared all week, sputtered throughout the day. Quarterback Marty Horn completed four of 13 attempts, threw two interceptions and was sacked once before being replaced by Tony Semler late in the second quarter.
"Horn got jarred pretty good," said Lehigh Coach John Whitehead. "He may have pulled a muscle, which is why we went with Tony."
Even so, Whitehead was puzzled about his offense, which "never got untracked." Lehigh, a Division I-AA school, did not penetrate Navy territory until the final quarter, when Williamson's pass on fourth and three was intercepted by Mike Lippincott and returned 59 yards to the Navy 20.
That was the closest Lehigh would come to scoring, but Semler and his primary receivers, Richie Benn and Jeff Hunt, could do little against Navy's defense.
"Defensively, we got a little down (earlier in the game) when there wasn't much offense," said Navy linebacker Andy Ponseigo, who had two interceptions. "On the sidelines, we were talking shutout, and we knew we had to play harder."
McCallum, usually Navy's rushing mainstay, had what he called "so far, my lousiest game," gaining 146 yards in 29 tries. Even his one-yard touchdown run halfway through the third quarter didn't please him too much because he wants "a long touchdown run."
"I was pretty mad late in the game, when it was third and one, and I didn't get it (touchdown) that one yard," he said. A play later, his arm did reach inside the end zone, but McCallum, according to his own assessment and Tranquill's, was not as good as he can be.
Still, McCallum's touchdown sent Navy in the right direction, with the defense continuing to hold Lehigh and offensive gains resulting in points instead of dead ends.
Heine's touchdown was followed by Lehigh's only real threat of the game, on Lippincott's interception. Then Brand scored on a 14-yard pass from Williamson, completed a nine-play, 80-yard drive.
Williamson was replaced late in the fourth quarter with Sean Cannon, and McCallum's substitute, Clouse, ran two yards for the final touchdown with three minutes remaining.
Lehigh's final drive resulted in a seven-yard loss, with the final play intercepted by John Carroll, completing the Engineers' frustration. Tranquill, asked about defeating Lehigh before facing nationally ranked Washington next week in Seattle, pulled his mouth into something resembling a smile.
"They're a solid football team but they're no Washington," he said.