ANNAPOLIS, NOV. 7 -- Navy's football team did not look nearly as bad today as it did last week in South Bend, Ind., against Notre Dame. It also did not look nearly as good as it did two weeks ago here against Pittsburgh.
However, because the Midshipmen's offense was inconsistent and unable to take advantage of several first-half scoring opportunities and their defense was unable to stop Syracuse when it had the chance, Navy fell to the eighth-ranked Orangemen, 34-10, before 26,614 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The defeat dropped Navy's record to 1-8 and was its 15th loss in 16 games. Syracuse is 9-0 and has only to beat Boston College and West Virginia to gain its first New Year's Day bowl game appearance since 1964 and its first undefeated regular season since 1959.
"It was a game in which I think the offense sputtered and the defense had a real problem with their speed," Navy Coach Elliot Uzelac said. "I think speed played a major factor in this game."
"That's one of the problems we have every game," Navy linebacker Mark Pimpo said. "But the way you get over physical deficiency is through technique and not making mistakes."
Which is to say, over the full 60 minutes, this match of physical ability against technique and execution, was really a mismatch.
Navy, which did not have to face Syracuse's Outland Trophy candidate nose guard Ted Gregory (sprained knee), moved inside the Orangemen's 35-yard line on its first two possessions. Those possessions ended with a punt and with a field goal that made the score 7-3 early in the second quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Syracuse's next four possessions ended in two field goals and two touchdowns, making the score 27-3 midway through the third quarter. On those possessions, the Orangemen converted seven of nine third-down situations; they needed an average of more than 5 1/2 yards on those plays for the first down.
For the first three possessions, the game was almost a dream come true for Uzelac. The Midshipmen took the opening kickoff and, helped by a 15-yard face-mask penalty, were able to maintain possession despite a 15-yard penalty for blocking below the knees that left them with second down and 22 from their 23. Navy also converted after an illegal-procedure penalty forced it to face a first and 15 and a second and 12.
But quarterback Alton Grizzard then fumbled on a first-down exchange with fullback Curtis Brown. The drive stalled at Syracuse's 33 and, because they were facing a fairly stiff breeze, the Midshipmen punted. However, they had held the ball for 5:15, keeping their defense where Uzelac has wanted them all season -- on the bench.
Syracuse then put on a six-play, 2:58 demonstration of why Uzelac feels that way. Halfback Robert Drummond (11 carries, 62 yards) gained 12 yards after faking a reverse to wide receiver Tommy Kane. Fullback Daryl Johnston (13 carries, 66 yards, two touchdowns) gained seven up the middle. Drummond gained 19 on a draw play.
Quarterback Don McPherson (11 of 20 for 197 yards and two touchdowns) completed a pass to closely-covered tight end Pat Kelly and the 6-foot-6, 252-pound senior dragged a gang of tacklers for a seven-yard gain. Drummond was stopped after a one-yard gain on a counter play. Wide receiver Deval Glover then beat cornerback Larry Dickinson along the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown reception.
Navy consumed 7:44 more in driving for a 24-yard field goal by Ted Fundoukos that was his ninth straight, one short of the school record set by Steve Fehr in 1980.
After holding the Orangemen on three downs, Navy regained possession at its 43. The Midshipmen were also forced to punt after three plays, but Andy Mueck's kick was downed at the 2 by Scott Carson.
However, Syracuse began moving the ball again. On third and five from the 7, McPherson gained nine yards on an option run. Drummond gained two on third and inches at the 25. McPherson's three-yard quarterback sneak on third and one gave Syracuse a first down at Navy's 45. By the time Tim Vesling made the score 10-3 with a 34-yard field goal, the Orangemen had gone 81 yards in 16 plays that consumed 8:20.
After the kickoff, Navy again held the ball for just three plays, with running back Don Holl dropping a third-down pass despite being open.
On Syracuse's first play, Johnston gained 26 yards on a draw and the Orangemen were threatening again. With 18 seconds left in the half, Vesling kicked another 34-yard field goal.
Syracuse extended its lead to 20-3 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from McPherson to Kane that concluded a 10-play, 79-yard drive.
Four plays after the ensuing kickoff, Navy halfback Paul Parker fumbled an option pitch and linebacker Brian LeBaron recovered at Navy's 32. Seven plays after that, Johnston's one-yard touchdown run made it 27-3.
"I felt good going into halftime," Pimpo said. "I thought we were playing decent, but we have to come out of the locker room smoking. We gave them a touchdown on their first possession of the first half and their first possession of the second half. When you do that, I think that sets the tone for the whole game."
Syracuse 7 6 14 7 34 Navy 0 3 0 7 10 First quarter
S -- Glover 39 pass from McPherson (Vessling kick) Second quarter
N -- FG Fundoukos 24
S -- FG Vessling 34
S -- FG Vessling 34 Third quarter
S -- Kane 18 pass from McPherson (Vessling kick)
S -- Johnston 1 run (Vessling kick) Fourth quarter
N -- Bradley 4 run (Fundoukos kick)
S -- Johnston 3 run (Vessling kick) Syracuse Navy First downs 23 19 Rushes-yards 47-246 59-204 Passing yards 209 101 Return yards 16 3 Passing 12-22-0 7-14-1 Punts-average 3-37.3 4-36.5 Fumbles-lost 2-0 5-1 Penalties-yards 5-60 5-40 T
A -- 26,614INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING -- Syracuse: Owens 9-67, Johnston 13-66, Drummond 11-62, McPherson 7-32, Kinnon 3-14, Philcox 1-4,
PASSING -- Syracuse: McPherson 11-20-0, 197 yards, Philcox 1-2-0, 12. Navy: Grizzard 7-14-1, 101.
RECEIVING -- Syracuse: Glover 3-69, Kane 2-38, Drummond 2-33, Kelly 2-23, Moore 1-17, Davis 1-17, Pennyfeat