For the first time in 22 years, an Ivy League football team came to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today. As far as the Midshipmen and old grads in the overflow homecoming crowd of 31,039 were concerned, the wait was well worth it.
Navy improved to 3-3 by beating Princeton, 41-3, as sophomore quarterback Bill Byrne outshone Tiger junior Doug Butler; both are California high school products.
Byrne completed 13 of 17 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a third score before Coach Gary Tranquill mercifully yanked his regulars in the third quarter.
Butler, unsupported by a Princeton running game that netted five yards in 20 carries, completed 22 of 42 passes for 221 yards. In contrast to last year, when he threw an NCAA Division I-AA record 55 passes without interception in Navy's 37-29 victory, he faced a determined pass rush today and had two picked off.
"We talked about that all week -- 55 passes and no interceptions," said Navy cornerback Tom Metzger, who broke the string on Butler's 37th pass today. "He was the quarterback on the No. 1 team in California when Bill Byrne and I were seniors out there and we were hoping we'd kind of give it to him a little today.
"He has a good arm and he's accurate. Besides, it's so hard to stop those little five-yard routes. But we were well prepared. They changed their offense last week and we were ready for it."
There never was much doubt that the Midshipmen would be able to move the ball against Princeton, which yielded 32 points to Brown two weeks ago. But Navy's total of 521 yards topped the year's average by 170.
"Going in, we thought we could throw the football, because they use a lot of man coverage and we felt our receivers were better than their secondary," Tranquill said. "Our passes were right on the money and I can't recall a dropped ball.
"The only thing that really upset me was the blitz they used on our first series. We had seen it and prepared for it and we missed it. That got us off to our normal, notorious slow start."
Beginning with its second series, Navy proved unstoppable, except by its own mistakes, while field position proved a big problem for Princeton, which started from its 15, 11, 6 and 20 on its second through fifth possessions.
Chris Weiler, the senior split end from Annandale, opened the Navy scoring with a sprint down the left side past cornerback Dave McEachern for a 34-yard reception from Byrne. It wrapped up an 80-yard drive in eight plays.
"It was a streak to the outside, with me alone against the cornerback," said Weiler, who caught a second touchdown pass in the third quarter. "They got mixed up in their coverage and I went right by the guy.
"I had to put up with a lot of stuff last year, because I went to high school with Kevin Guthrie, who caught nine passes against us, and we didn't throw that much. It was nice to grab some big ones today, although once we went ahead Coach didn't want to show too much."
Navy's second series brought a 41-yard drive in seven plays, climaxed by Byrne's one-yard dive for a 14-0 lead.
Two successive penalties, one of which nullified Rich Clouse's 38-yard run to the Princeton 11, forced Navy to punt on its next possession and Butler drove the Tigers from their six to the Navy 11 in 14 plays, with Mike Miskovsky kicking a 28-yard field goal.
The Midshipmen went 81 yards in seven plays, only to have Clouse fumble into the end zone for a touchback.
On the final play of the half, Todd Solomon kicked a 52-yard field goal, an academy record that eclipsed Steve Fehr's 50-yarder against Army in 1980. Solomon has been successful on 10 of his last 11, missing only from 50 yards against Lehigh last week.
"This makes up for last week -- and then some," Solomon said. "There was pandemonium out there, because everyone knew it was the record. I saw the situation and figured I might get a chance. Even though there wasn't much wind on the field, the flags were blowing with me and I just tried to get it up and let the wind help it."
The ball sailed through with a few yards to spare.
Navy scored on its first three possessions of the second half to remove any chance of a comeback such as Butler mounted last year when Princeton trailed, 28-7.
After Miskovsky was wide on a 47-yard field-goal try, the Midshipmen marched 70 yards in 10 plays, with Byrne hitting all four passes he threw for 60 yards, including a 10-yard scoring toss to Weiler.
Byrne stayed in with a flock of substitutes to guide a 41-yard drive that saw plebe Chuck Smith score his first collegiate touchdown, from 17 yards out. Smith took a pitchout from Byrne and went through a huge hole at right tackle, faking safety Kyle Heffley out of his way at the five.
After Princeton's Dan Pellegrino fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Solomon made it 34-3 with a 31-yard field goal.
Linebacker Jim Dwyer joined Metzger in the interception department to set up Navy's final score, an eight-yard sprint around left end by sophomore Mike Smith.
Sticking to basics, Navy ran out of downs at the Princeton four, then ended the game at the Tigers' two. Padding the score was unimportant. The Midshipmen already were looking ahead to Pittsburgh.
Weiler may face extra duty in that one, since flanker Ken Heine suffered a broken arm in the second period today and tight end Mark Stevens sprained his left knee later.