Navy coach Gary Tranquill said today he isn't in the habit of rapping officials, but felt they failed to make the right calls when the game was on the line Saturday against Notre Dame.

Tranquill was still upset about several noncalls that doomed his team to an 18-17 loss to Notre Dame at the Meadowlands. The biggest play was the last-second 44-yard field goal by John Carney that Tranquill insisted came after the 25-second clock had expired.

Another play rankled Tranquill even more. On Allen Pinkett's one-yard touchdown run that cut the Navy lead to 17-15 with just over two minutes to play, Tranquill said films showed the Irish had 12 men on the field.

"They had a 12-man huddle, which is against the rules, and when they broke, (Joe) Howard lined up wide instead of leaving," Tranquill said today at his weekly press luncheon. "Tom Metzger goes over to cover him and suddenly the quarterback (Steve Beuerlein) starts looking around. Howard then turns and tries to run off while Metzger hurries back to the middle of the field. They snap the play while Howard is still on the field and score.

"When I wrote my officials' evaluation, I mentioned the 12 men on the field, the 12-men huddles and the clock situation. The films showed obvious mistakes," said Tranqill, who also felt the officials missed a roughing the kicker penalty on punter Mark Colby. "Usually the officials do a good job. This particular day, they didn't. I don't expect anything to happen. What can you do?"

Tranquill and the disappointed Midshipmen (3-4-1) are trying hard to forget the one-point loss and prepare for Syracuse (5-4) at 1:30 Saturday at the Carrier Dome.

The Orangemen were the talk of the nation when they upset then top-ranked ranked Nebraska (17-9) in the fourth week of the season. Syracuse then lost three straight games before back-to-back victories over Army (27-16) and Pittsburgh (13-7).

"Letdown, what letdown?" bristled Syracuse Coach Dick McPherson when asked if his team got a case of the swelled head after the big win. "You try playing Florida (a 16-0 loss), West Virginia (20-10) and Penn State (21-3) on successive weeks and talk to me about letting down. You get a lot of headaches. We're just trying to stay alive."

Despite playing those teams in addition to Maryland and Rutgers, Syracuse is the ninth-ranked defensive team (272 yards allowed per game) in the nation. Led by linebacker Jaime Kimmel and tackle Tim Green, Syracuse is also second in pass defense (118) and scoring defense (14.1).

"They're as fine a defensive team as I've seen in a while," Tranquill said. "They have real good talent and play great technique defense. They don't do lot of different things but they're anxious and get after you."

Facing a strong defensive team could present a major problem for the banged-up Midshipmen. Bob Misch will replace Bill Byrne (broken leg) at quarterback and John Sniffen starts in place of Mark Stevens (bruised kneecap) at tight end. A number of other players are out with an assortment of injuries.