For reckless abandon and heady risk, one doesn't usually look to the Naval Academy, but the Midshipmen are changing their image this week.
Navy Coach Gary Tranquill, frustrated by an 0-2 record and still puzzled by last weekend's 16-13 loss to Division I-AA Delaware, said today that the Midshipmen have been overcautious and will play something called "go to hell" football against Indiana Saturday in Bloomington.
"Maybe it's my fault," Tranquill said. "Sometimes too much caution is a problem. We're going to take some more chances and do some different things to try to light a spark and show people that we're playing to win instead of playing not to lose."
Tranquill would not specify what changes he will make against the Hoosiers, who last week broke a 16-game losing streak, longest in the nation, with a 41-28 victory over Louisville. But Tranquill hinted repeatedly at a high-risk game plan. One thing the Midshipmen need to do is establish a passing game to take some of the heat off Napoleon McCallum, who has been their only proven offensive weapon, gaining 153 yards on 27 carries for two touchdowns against the Blue Hens.
"I think he's (Tranquill) going to go for it," said flanker Mike Ray, "and I think it's great."
Tranquill had said after Saturday's loss that he would reevaluate much of his roster this week in practice. Another tack Tranquill might take is to play more personnel, particularly on defense, which gave up 360 yards to the Blue Hens' wing-T offense.
Several reserves have earned more playing time, although they will not start, including junior Tom Doman and sophomore Andre Stokes at linebacker, and junior defensive ends Ken Rouser and Scott Boyer. Linebacker Vince McBeth, who suffered a pinched nerve in his neck against Delaware, probably will not make the trip. He will be replaced by senior Mike Taylor.
Tranquill yesterday said he will not make a change at quarterback, where Bill Byrne has thrown five interceptions and played tentatively in his first two starts. Byrne will remain the starter. Backup Bob Misch, who is still recovering from offseason knee surgery but replaced Byrne in the fourth quarter against Delaware, may be used again in relief if needed, Tranquill said.
What may be the Midshipmen's greatest concern, however, is a string of penalties. In two games, they have been penalized 18 times for 155 yards, while opponents have been called only eight times for 62 yards. Infractions repeatedly halted drives against Delaware, including one in the fourth period that could have affected the outcome.
"In my mind, the penalties have hurt us more than anything," Tranquill said. "Every one we've had has come at a critical time. We've got to correct that . . . If penalties are part of not playing well, then maybe we aren't. But in terms of the overall I think we are playing well. I haven't been displeased."
Two Navy penalties have called back two-point conversions, including a flag for having an illegal receiver downfield that deprived the Midshipmen of a tie with North Carolina.
"I don't know if it's lack of mental discipline or what," Byrne said. "I know it's something we have to work on."
It is hard to judge how much Indiana's victory over a poor Louisville team under first-year Coach Howard Schnellenberger meant, but the Hoosiers are coming off of an 0-11 season. After the loss to Delaware, Navy can't be sure of any pushovers.
"They may still be playing Louisville today and tomorrow, but I doubt it," Tranquill said. "Sometimes that's what you need to get the spark going."