Much to the chagrin of a bruised and battered Navy team, defensive-oriented Syracuse found its missing offense today without missing a beat on defense.
The Orangemen, harboring hopes of a bid to a minor bowl, scored their season high in points along with their first shutout of the year in a 29-0 victory over the Midshipmen before 44,090 at the Carrier Dome.
Navy Coach Gary Tranquill called the Syracuse domination a "good old-fashioned whipping."
Navy (4-4-1), which had played tough the last two weeks in gaining a 28-28 tie at Pittsburgh and losing an 18-17 cliffhanger to Notre Dame, had no chance here. Against a team ranked 12th nationally in total defense (272 yards allowed per game) and second against the pass (118), the Midshipmen netted a minus three yards rushing and only 113 total yards. They converted only three of 13 third downs. They crossed midfield once until late in the third period.
"I had said all along Syracuse had as good a defense as I've seen," Tranquill said. "Obviously, we didn't give them any problems."
Syracuse senior linebacker Jerry Kimmel (three sacks), tackle Tim Green (nearly a dozen tackles) and a secondary led by Vic Bellamy held Navy in check.
Syracuse came into this game having scored only a field goal in the first period of its previous nine games and but 106 points for the year. Today, the Orangemen equaled that previous three-point first-quarter total, then used a touchdown and a safety in the second quarter to lead, 12-0, at the half.
"When the offense scored, that made it easier for us," Kimmel said. "We knew they were in a situation when they would have to throw and we could really let loose."
Don McAulay gave the Orangemen all the points they would need when he kicked a personal-best 51-yard field goal with 7:23 to play in the first period.
Syracuse pulled away to 10-0 after driving 80 yards in 15 plays. Jamie Covington (32 yards on 12 carries), one of 25 seniors honored before playing their final home game, and junior Harold Gayden (94 on 13, two touchdowns) picked up most of the tough yards on off-tackle plays and sweeps. Gayden scored from 10 yards out on a draw play 9:18 before halftime.
Navy freshman Andy Mueck, substituting for injured punter Mark Colby, suffered the misfortune of a snap sailing over his head into the end zone. The ball rolled out of bounds for the safety.
Navy quarterback Bob Misch, starting in place of Bill Byrne (broken leg), completed 12 of 22 for 108 yards but his team made only 10 first downs.
"The job of the offense is to score and we didn't," said Misch, who was sacked six times. "They didn't do anything we didn't expect them to do. But for their size, they were very quick. We just didn't execute very well."
Tranquill said, under the circumstances, he felt Misch played fairly well.
"The loss of Byrne hurts our continuity but Misch made some good throws under duress," Tranquill said. "We wanted to run the ball early but we couldn't. The one spark of life (late in the second period) we had was cut short by penalties (and three straight sacks). We just didn't do anything offensively."
Syracuse, which made 210 yards rushing and 320 yards total offense, continued to run the ball with success in the second half.
After an interception by Bellamy at the Syracuse 33, quarterback Mike Kmetz directed an eight-play drive that built the advantage to 19-0 with 8:43 to play in the third quarter. Seven running plays preceded a pass, Kmetz to Mike Siano, for a 13-yard score.
Later in the period, Gayden completed a nine-play advance with a four-yard touchdown run. On fourth and one from the four, Syracuse Coach Dick MacPherson gambled rather than take a sure field goal. Syracuse led, 26-0, and was well on its way to winning its third straight.
The Orangemen will take a 6-4 record to Foxboro, Mass., for the season closer next weekend against Boston College.
"We were fortunate to catch Navy at this point of the season when they have so many injuries," MacPherson said. "We were a little sympathetic.
"We seemed to get better as the game went on. We've been pretty strong in the fourth period all year and I thought Kmetz did a good job. He's been under the gun for three games and has done very well."
In what has become a frustratingly regular occurrence, Navy suffered several more injuries. Fullback John Berner got a hip pointer on the game's first series and center Gregg Sears left the game with a back problem.
McAulay closed out the scoring with a 30-yard field goal. But Syracuse -- which played Maryland, Rutgers, Nebraska, Florida, West Virginia, Penn State and Army this season -- had long ago begun celebrating what turned out to be a breather.