Virginia is looking for consistency from its young defense. Navy is looking for something much less abstract -- its first win.
The Midshipmen (0-3) will visit Scott Stadium in Charlottesville today to play the Cavaliers (2-0), ranked 20th in the Associated Press football poll, beginning at 12:20 p.m. (WJLA-TV-7).
Still-winless Howard (0-3) will play its first home game of the year at Howard Stadium, against South Carolina State at 1. The visiting Bulldogs have not been overly impressive either, bringing a 1-3 record into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game. But they have beaten the Bison 11 straight times since the series began in 1971.
The Bison have been depleted by disciplinary and injury problems. Quarterback Leon Brown and tailback Harvey Reed, both suffering from back injuries, are questionable. Others who might not play include linebacker Marvin Jackson (bruised knee), cornerback Andre Matthews (sprained ankle) and safety Spanky Johnson (bruised hip).
Center Vernon Robinson, wide receiver Tyrone Prather and linebacker Carroll Hughes have been dismissed from the team, according to Coach Willie Jeffries, because of an incident at the team's hotel after last Saturday's loss to Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla.
In other area games, Catholic will be host to St. Francis at 1:30, Georgetown will be at Dickinson, Bowie State is home against Johnson C. Smith at 1:30 and Montgomery-Rockville will be at Williamson.
Navy leads its series with Virginia, 25-6, but the Cavaliers have won the last two years, 21-9 in 1984 at Annapolis and 27-16 in 1983 at Charlottesville.
Navy Coach Gary Tranquill, who, along with many others, expected this to be a banner year, has a defense that didn't make the big plays -- especially on third down -- in last week's 38-35 loss at Indiana. For the year, Navy opponents have converted more than 50 percent of their third downs (25 of 49).
"We just can't give up the big play on third down," Tranquill said this week. "(Indiana) made something like 10 of 17 third-down conversions, and six of those 10 were for 10 yards or more. That lifts the spirits of the offensive team and affects you."
And Virginia's offense has averaged 418 yards per game, has just one turnover (a fumble) and has allowed quarterback Don Majkowski to be sacked only once.
The line protecting Majkowski has five seniors (including tight end Geno Zimmerlink), one junior and is led by left tackle Jim Dombrowski. The Cavaliers alternate two tailbacks, Barry Word and Howard Petty. In last Saturday's 24-13 victory over Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Word rushed for 188 yards on 17 carries. His first two carries gained 131 yards and helped Virginia to a 14-10 first-quarter lead.
The Virginia defense that was so strong a year ago, has played well so far, but lacks consistency, according to linebacker coach Tony Whittlesey.
"It's a very young defense (four seniors starting), and we're hoping to get the same effort and intensity from them," Whittlesey said. "When it's early in the year, and they're young, it's hard to predict their performance. We still have questions ourselves, and number one is consistency."
Navy running back Napoleon McCallum is a concern for any defense, and Virginia is no exception. However, the Cavaliers have been able to keep McCallum in check the last two years. In 1983, he gained 83 yards on 24 carries, and in 1984, he got 74 yards on 21 tries.
"They have other weapons, but he's the bazooka," said Virginia senior linebacker Charles McDaniel, who can be excused for mismatching weapons and military services. "They have a very underrated quarterback (Bill Byrne) who can beat you, but when you look at Navy's offense, seriously it's Napoleon McCallum."
"Nobody really stops him, you just hope to control him a little," Whittlesey said. "They have two players in crucial positions -- quarterback and tailback -- and the way they run their offense they've got to have outstanding players at those positions. Their supporting offensive cast is good enough to allow those guys to get the job done. It may sound like it, but that's not just pre-game smoke. It's an accurate assessment."