The Navy football season was nearing a close last year when starting quarterback Bill Byrne went down with a broken foot and Bob Misch took his place. Navy won one of the final three games under Misch -- a 38-21 upset over then No. 2-ranked South Carolina.

Byrne established six school records in last week's 24-20 loss to Syracuse, but hours after the game, he underwent emergency surgery for a torn spleen. He will remain in Anne Arundel General Hospital this Saturday as Misch leads the Midshipmen (3-6) against the also injury-riddled Gamecocks (4-5) in Columbia, S.C.

Byrne's 37-of-52 performance for 399 yards and two touchdowns against Syracuse earned him ECAC Division I-A offensive player-of-the-week honors. He set Navy single-game records for passes completed, passes attempted, yards passing and total yards (378). His 151 completions and 1,694 yards passing are single-season school records.

"His performance has to rank among the finest I have ever seen by anybody any time," said Navy Coach Gary Tranquill. "It (the loss to Syracuse) was a depressing loss, but everybody feels good about Bob Misch."

Tranquill said repeated viewing of game films did not reveal when or how Byrne was injured.

"The doctors tell me you can have a slight perforation that seeps and then can tear when you get a big jolt," said Tranquill. "Dr. (Tom) Harries said he lost quite a bit of blood and that will take some time to regenerate, but he didn't feel there would be any problem with him continuing his football career."

Misch has struggled physically since undergoing knee surgery in April. He has completed 18 of 29 passes for 180 yards and two scores in relief appearances this fall.

"It is tough to come back from an injury like that in one year, nonetheless by August," said Tranquill. "I was concerned about his mental attitude the first three or four weeks of the season, but it has gotten better over the last few weeks. I still wince every time he takes a hit, and I don't know if he is 100 percent, but he is close."

Tranquill said Misch will step into the same offensive alignments Navy used with Byrne, but if little-used junior backup Joe Lauletta is needed, Navy will need to make adjustments.

"Joe is more mobile than Billy and Bob, but he does not have as strong an arm," said Tranquill. "We would have to change our thinking."