Heading in opposite directions, Navy and Virginia both will have the opportunity to make their seasons this week.
The Cavaliers, who showed potential despite losing to No. 20 Georgia and Maryland in their first two games, Saturday defeated Virginia Military, 30-0, for their third consecutive victory and first shutout since 1984.
On Saturday, they will play at eighth-ranked Clemson. A victory would be Virginia's first against the Tigers -- the series stands 0-26-0 -- and would give the Cavaliers a legitimate chance at their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Against VMI, senior Scott Secules set Virginia's single-game pass completion percentage record, and excellent performances by senior wide receiver Keith Mattioli and freshman running back Marcus Smith allowed the Cavaliers to overcome the absence of injured tailback Kevin Morgan (sore knee) and wide receiver John Ford (pulled hamstring). Morgan and Ford both are expected to play this week.
The Midshipmen, who came into the season full of enthusiasm and optimism, experienced only futility in their first three games. Saturday, in their fourth game, Coach Elliot Uzelac made several personnel changes, including moving Chuck Smith from halfback to fullback. Navy lost anyway, 31-11, at Virginia Tech, the Academy's 11th straight defeat.
This week, the Midshipmen play Air Force in Annapolis. A victory would be Navy's first over the Falcons since 1981 and would create an opportunity to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, presented annually to the winner of the football competition among the three major service academies, in December against Army.
Led by Smith's 143 yards rushing on 30 carries, the Midshipmen had season highs of 345 yards rushing (their most rushing yards ever in a loss) and 34:28 possession time against the previously winless Hokies. However, quarterbacks John Nobers (73 yards rushing on 19 carries) and Alton Grizzard each completed just two of nine passes and threw one interception. Also, after facing its smallest halftime deficit of the season, 14-3, Navy allowed Virginia Tech freshman Jon Jeffries (128 yards on 15 carries), formerly of DeMatha High School, to score on a 56-yard run on the opening possession of the second half. The Midshipmen's only second-half score was Grizzard's eight-yard touchdown pass to Carl Jordan with three seconds to play.
"In order for us to win, we have to get into the end zone," Uzelac said. "We did a lot of things well, but inconsistency hurt us. We have to make the plays when they are available to us."
For Virginia Tech, the victory brought some relief to what had been an extremely difficult week for the athletic department. Friday, school officials appeared before an NCAA infractions committee investigating alleged football scholarship limit violations under former coach Bill Dooley and rules violations committed by the basketball program. The university bought out the final two years of basketball coach Charlie Moir's contract.
Saturday brought (1) the announcement that assistant coach Frankie Lane was replacing Moir on an interim basis, and (2) new football coach Frank Beamer's first win at his alma mater.
"I can't tell you guys how good it feels to win," Beamer said.
Virginia Coach George Welsh won, but didn't feel good.
"I was not happy with our offense," he said. "I think we stumbled too much."
Not only did the Cavaliers settle for field goal attempts by Mark Inderlied five times, but Inderlied made only three. Still, Secules, the ACC's highest-rated passer, continued to distance himself from Virginia freshman Shawn Moore, connecting on 17 of 23 for 229 yards and zero interceptions. Moore was zero for two with two interceptions.
Mattioli, who teamed with Secules at Chantilly High School, had a career-high eight receptions for 137 yards and Wilson rushed for 129 yards on a Virginia freshman record 34 carries.