Where was that vaunted Virginia offense?
The Cavaliers' veteran unit that had been averaging 418 yards a game was not simply outplayed today by Navy. It contributed to its own demise by committing three turnovers and not taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
"I wasn't sure if 17 points at the half was going to be enough, but it turned out to be," Navy Coach Gary Tranquill said after the Midshipmen had hung on, 17-13.
Coming into this game, the Cavaliers (2-1) were ranked 22nd in the nation in total offense after getting 435 yards in their 24-13 victory over Georgia Tech last Saturday and 401 yards in the opening victory over VMI. They were 12th in rushing, averaging 280.5 yards, and had only one turnover (a fumble) that ranked them second in turnover margin. Individually, tailback Barry Word, who had 110 yards on 21 carries today, was fourth in rushing.
But all those flashy numbers might have blinded a few eyes.
"The rankings came out this week and I think it distracted some of the younger guys," senior offensive tackle Jim Dombrowski said. "We didn't have a great week of practice. I hope we learn a lesson from this."
The Navy defense limited Virginia to 304 yards in total offense, sacked quarterback Don Majkowski twice, which is double the number from the first two games, and forced three turnovers. Majkowski hadn't thrown an interception since last year's Peach Bowl game (three interceptions in 175 passes including the Peach Bowl prior to today), but today he threw two.
Virginia's second drive was halted when Majkowski's pass was intercepted by linebacker Eric Fudge at the Virginia 47. Navy then drove for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
In the second quarter, with Navy leading, 10-7, Virginia had first down on the Navy 13 after driving from its 34. All the Cavaliers got was three points from Kenny Stadlin to tie.
After Napoleon McCallum made it 17-10, with 1:49 left in the half, Majkowski's first pass was intercepted by linebacker Vince McBeth.
Perhaps the most demoralizing drive for Virginia was its third of the third quarter. With a first down on the Navy 31, Word gained 29 up the middle for first and goal. Word then carried inside the one, but Navy was offsides. Virginia took the penalty -- Cavaliers Coach George Welsh said later he probably should have declined -- so it had first and goal at the one. Then:
Word loses two on a pitch right.
Word appears to score, but Virginia is assessed a 10-yard holding penalty, for second and goal at the 11.
Word gains three on a pitch right.
Majkowski hits wide receiver Willie Snead in the hands, but Snead, in the end zone, drops the ball.
Stadlin kicks 25-yard field goal, 17-13.
Welsh, who said of his passing game, "I'm not that concerned," attributed Majkowski's problems (11 of 21 for 108 yards) to a good Navy defense and turnover in his receiving corps. Word and tight end Geno Zimmerlink said Majkowski had been troubled by soreness in his throwing arm this week, though Welsh didn't see it as a major issue.
Word said the the offense isn't working as a unit as well as it should.
"I just feel we're not together enough, on and off the field," said Word. "I don't want to say we were cocky, but Navy came in and surprised us."
"We hurt ourselves with penalties (7)seven), missed passes, and all the small things added up," said Word, who fumbled an option pitch to end a fourth-quarter drive. "It's not the end of the world, but it is confusing."