ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 28 -- First quarter. No score. Second down and goal from the 1-yard line. Everyone in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium knows the ball is going to be given to the tank-sized player lined up seven yards deep in Pittsbugh's backfield. And everyone knows Craig (Ironhead) Heyward is going to be throwing his 6-foot, 260-pound body full speed into the middle of Navy's line.

This is the kind of situation Navy inside linebacker Mark Pimpo lives for.

"There's a sign in our locker room that says, 'How do you react when the pressure's on?' Football's a pressure game and you have to be able to react and overcome certain obstacles in order to be successful," Pimpo said.

The obstacle was obvious. To the 5-11, 218-pound Pimpo, so was the reaction.

"I knew what they were going to run because I had seen that situation a couple of times on film, against Notre Dame," Pimpo said. "So I sort of just went with my instinct; I had a good feeling for where the football was gonna be. I know my vertical leap isn't exactly great, so I got a little bit of a running start . . . I just caught him in the air. It was the awesomest impact I've ever been in."

And, it certainly stopped Heyward.

"We had to run that one back a few times during films," Pimpo said with a laugh.

Heyward scored on the next play, but the point had been made. The Midshipmen held the Panthers to 139 yards total offense for the rest of the game and a game total of 206 yards -- the fewest yards Navy has allowed in 47 games overall and the fewest yards Navy has allowed against a Division I-A opponent in 69 games. Pittsburgh came away with a 10-6 victory -- Navy's 13th loss in 14 games -- but Pimpo, who made nine other tackles, came away with his second ECAC Division I-A Defensive Player of the Week award this season.

"Pimpo's just worked extremely hard to improve himself as a player and as a team leader on defense," Navy Coach Elliot Uzelac said. "He's a limited athlete and he knows that, so he's got to play with his mind. He's got to know exactly what to do, how to do it and be at the right spot at the right time. Now, he's understanding that more and he's executing the proper techniques of the defense much better. But I know he's gonna have to play as well {as he did against Pitt}, if not better the rest of the season for us to continue to improve."

Pimpo will certainly have to play well this week as the Midshipmen (1-6) travel to Notre Dame for the 61st game of one of college football's longest continuous intersectional rivalries. The ninth-ranked Fighting Irish (5-1) have not lost to Navy since 1963.

However, that doesn't faze Pimpo, a junior from Strongsville, Ohio -- the same town that produced Chuck Smith, Navy's best running back, who is expected to miss his third consecutive game because of a knee injury. Both of Pimpo's older brothers attended Navy and Dave, who graduated in 1986, was a three-year letterman at nose guard.

"My brothers had something to do with my coming here," Pimpo said, "but ever since I was little, I sort of wanted to come here. It was like a storybook kind of thing, I guess. My father used to take me down to the Cleveland airshow and I'd get to see the Blue Angels perform. I was always intrigued by airplanes and the Navy, and my dad used to show me pictures of him when he was in the Navy, on an aircraft carrier."

After a year at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., Pimpo finally made it as a midshipman. Now, three years later, he is making it as a football player.

"I think," said Uzelac, "he had his best game so far {last} Saturday."

Navy Notes:

Defensive backs Paul Day, Mike Marchildon and Curtis Irby, who reinjured his knee against Pitt; linebackers Pat Donelly and Bill Moyer and defensive linemen Scott Prinz and nose guard Clark Nichols are not expected to play against Notre Dame because of injury.