Navy took the opening kickoff against Delaware today and methodically drove 80 yards to a touchdown. It was so devastating a drive that Delaware Coach Tubby Raymond said, "I thought the score would be 150 to nothing. I didn't think we'd ever slow them down."
The Blue Hens made adjustments, however, and by game's end they were celebrating one of the more satisfying wins in Raymond's 20-year tenure. With junior quarterback Rich Gannon scoring two touchdowns and completing 15 of 19 passes without an interception, Delaware earned a 16-13 upset victory in its first encounter with the Midshipmen since 1931.
The Blue Hens' defense, after the initial shock, forced Navy into repeated errors that included three second-half interceptions.
Running back Napoleon McCallum produced the greater part of Navy's offensive yardage, rushing for 153 yards in 27 carries and catching four passes for 43 yards. He set an Academy career rushing record of 3,082 yards.
Still, McCallum was sufficiently frustrated by the gang tackling of the Blue Hens to throw a punch at linebacker Darrell Booker after Booker stood him up with a resounding fourth-quarter tackle. Players from both teams became involved, but nobody left the benches and the officials were able to control things.
"I lost my cool; there was a little bit of a scuffle out there," McCallum said.
"I guess he thought I was on him too long, but I thought it was a clean hit," Booker said. "I think he was a little frustrated. He mentioned in the papers that he didn't know Delaware had a team. I guess he knows now."
Raymond said, "I was surprised to see somebody of McCallum's stature punch somebody, and I was even more surprised that no penalty was called. But I was also awed by McCallum. He's a great player, maybe the best in the country. He's better than I thought."
McCallum carried eight times in the opening drive for 58 yards and gave Navy a 7-0 lead by sprinting over from the 10-yard line on a third-and-goal draw play.
Delaware was forced to punt, but before the change of possession the Blue Hens demonstrated that they were pumped up to the limit when split end Todd Lott caught a pass out of bounds, crashed over the Navy bench and landed head first in the hedge that separates stands from playing field.
The Blue Hens not only held the Midshipmen on that second key possession, they limited Navy to four first downs the rest of the half.
"The first drive was the only time we let them air it out," said Booker, who led both teams with 22 tackles. "We didn't know what to expect and McCallum is great running out of the I. We knew we had to stop him, because we didn't think we'd get hurt by their passing game. We never really stopped him, but we adjusted and at least controlled him."
Navy had difficulty fathoming Delaware's wing-T offense. The Blue Hens rushed for 243 yards and Gannon's passing kept the Midshipmen guessing.
On its second possession, Delaware drove 69 yards in 12 plays to pull within 7-6. Gannon scored the touchdown on a third-down bootleg from the four. On the only other third-down conversion of the drive, he escaped a heavy Navy pass rush to dash eight yards.
The Blue Hens took a 9-7 lead to the dressing room, as Neil Roberts kicked a 24-yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the half.
Delaware deserved better than that. The Blue Hens had driven 88 yards to a first down at the Navy one, where Gannon fumbled the ball away on the second of two broken plays.
"We had some signal jamming at the goal line," Raymond said. "The linebacker suddenly yelled, 'Red,' which is one of our keys, and our center dropped the ball. I had to talk to the officials to get them to stop."
When Delaware got the ball back at the Navy 47, it drove to a first down at the 12. Although gaining 20 yards on the next three actual plays, the Blue Hens settled for the field goal because they were penalized twice, for holding and delay of game.
Navy benefited from a poor punt early in the third quarter, taking over at the Delaware 36. Quarterback Bill Byrne hit three straight passes as the Midshipmen drove to the two in seven plays, then McCallum swept left end for a touchdown that made it 13-9.
McCallum fumbled the ball through the end zone, but the head linesman ruled he had crossed the goal line before losing possession. Byrne then passed to McCallum for an apparent two-point conversion, which was nullified by a holding penalty. Booker deflected Byrne's pass on the second effort.
It was not until the teams moved upfield for the kickoff that Raymond realized Navy had scored a touchdown.
"I didn't know it was a TD," Raymond said. "It wasn't on the board and I didn't see them signal. I thought we'd stopped them. They were going for two points and I have to call the defense and I didn't know what was happening."
For the rest of the game, Delaware was well aware of what Navy was doing. When Booker tipped a pass by Byrne at the Delaware 33, safety Eric Hammack intercepted.
The Blue Hens covered the 67 yards in 10 plays, with Gannon completing three straight passes and scoring the decisive touchdown on a third-down keeper from the three. As in the earlier drive, he ran for the only other necessary third-down conversion.
An interception by safety Tyrone Jones halted Navy's next possession and ended Byrne's work for the day.
Bob Misch took over and moved the Midshipmen from their eight to the 39, where a clipping penalty forced a punt. Navy got one more chance and Misch led a drive from the 13 to the Delaware 35, before Delaware cornerback Phil Atwell wrestled a pass away from flanker Mike Ray with 2:26 remaining.
Delaware reeled off three first downs to run out the clock, even connecting on another of Gannon's effective but dangerous shovel passes.
"We knew if we fell on the ball, it would give them another opportunity," Gannon said. "We were confident that we could move the ball. Nobody expected us to win this game but ourselves. We believe in ourselves. We're a good football team."