One can only imagine the cargo of hopes Rich Clouse carried here Saturday night against Arkansas. The senior tailback was, after all, replacing the injured Napoleon McCallum, the all-America player with the all-America persona, the one they said had a strong chance to win the Heisman Trophy if he had a good year.
After Navy lost, 33-10, and only the showers could offer relief in the Midshipmen's locker room, Clouse confronted a mess of shattered dreams and said he thought he could have played better. "This was my first start," he said, "and I was wasting too much energy. I needed to relax more."
The deluge of postgame statistics shows that Clouse's performance, though hardly sterling, was far better than the bleacher trial court allowed. He gained 74 yards on 19 carries, and had one run of 23 yards on Navy's first possession. In fact, he showed great promise in the first half, gaining all but 10 of his total rushing yards.
A chalkboard in War Memorial Stadium holds the answer to what shifts in offensive strategy were made by Navy Coach Gary Tranquill at halftime and, thus, gives a clue to why Navy was a different offensive team in the second half. At the start, Navy quarterback Bill Byrne was able to keep his team in the fight by mixing passing and running. And although Arkansas led, 13-10, at the half, the Midshipmen had played valiantly, using up more than five minutes to move 98 yards on their only touchdown drive.
Navy ran 13 times in the second half and gained 22 yards, an almost inconceivable total considering the 88 yards gained on 34 tries in the early going. The final numbers tell all: Arkansas rushed 285 yards, Navy 125.
"We just came out a completely different team the second half," Byrne said. "Our offense was three plays and out. We couldn't sustain a drive. You can't depend on the big play. We ran right into their strength. The linebackers were filling the gaps real well. If we could have broken a tackle here or there, we might have scored more. We didn't get a break and Arkansas got a lot of them."
Arkansas quarterback Danny Nutt threw touchdown passes of 43 and 35 yards in the third period to give the Razorbacks a 26-10 lead and force Navy to pass. It was a case of playing catch-up, and everyone knew what to expect of the offense.
Razorback safety Greg Lasker said, "In the second half, we didn't give up the deep out pattern. . . .What we did was put either the rover or the outside linebacker on the wide receiver. This was to make sure he didn't get out too fast. When that happened, their timing was disrupted and the quarterback made some mistakes."
Nutt, a fifth-year senior, said the Navy secondary "played way back," giving him room to work with James Shibest, who caught nine passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Shibest said, "I believe Navy expected us to run tonight but we came out throwing and that really caught them by surprise."
Tranquill said he was pleased with the play of the Navy tailbacks, and thought "our guys played hard. We were our own worst enemy. We gave up three easy touchdowns in the second half and, offensively, we were horrendous."
In assessing the loss, Navy tight end Mark Stevens said, "We missed Nap tonight, but in a way, we didn't miss him. To be honest, I don't know how seriously Nap's absence affected us, but I don't think it was a lot. We had several people step in and take up where he left off, and they played good, hard football. The others will come along just fine . . . We all thought we could beat these guys. We came out confident, but obviously, we needed more than just that."