ANNAPOLIS, SEPT. 8 -- Navy's new multiple-set offense ran like a lawn mower today. It took several tugs at the ignition cord to get it under way, but once in full throttle it wiped out everything in its path.
Quarterback Alton Grizzard completed 17 of 33 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns, besides scoring a fourth himself as the Midshipmen inaugurated the George Chaump era with a 28-17 victory over Richmond.
Flanker Jerry Dawson caught six passes for 126 yards and became the fourth receiver in Navy history to score three touchdowns in one game.
Before all those glowing statistics were recorded, the Midshipmen had to overcome considerable adversity. After their first three possessions, they were without a first down and trailed, 10-0.
"It was one of those things you start wondering about," Chaump said. "When it's 10-0 and they haven't moved the ball either, it's grounds for concern. But truthfully, I knew we could come back and score some touchdowns."
Richmond took a 3-0 lead on a 39-yard field goal by Rob Courter and expanded it to 10-0 when strong safety Terry Warren, out of Chantilly High School, picked off an unwise Grizzard pass and carried it 10 yards across the goal line.
If Grizzard made a mistake throwing the ball when he was under pressure in the end zone, he compounded it by throwing a heavy and belated hit at Warren. When Grizzard came off the field, he couldn't lift his passing arm. That was especially bad news, since his backup, Gary McIntosh, had left the team after learning that Grizzard would be today's starter.
"I held my breath when Grizzard couldn't lift his arm," Chaump said. "But he never missed a down. I admire guys who come back from adversity."
Although Navy finished with 451 yards of offense, it did not score until its seventh possession. Grizzard hit five of six passes for 42 yards in a 59-yard, nine-play drive that ended with an 18-yard toss to Dawson at the left pylon. On the play before the score, Dawson snared another Grizzard pass but came down on the end line and had it waved off.
Only 2:01 remained in the first half when Navy kicked off and Eric Hopkins brought it back 39 yards to the 47. Most teams would be thinking defense; not Chaump. When Hopkins ran the ball on first down, Navy took a timeout.
"I knew if we got the ball back, we'd score," Chaump said.
The Spiders then threw two passes and punted. Navy took over at its 27 with 1:27 on the clock and it had a 14-10 lead 72 seconds later.
Grizzard covered the last seven yards on a quarterback draw, after completing four of seven passes for 70 yards. En route, the Midshipmen were assessed a holding penalty and appeared to suffer a tough break when an 18-yard completion to Dawson on third and 15 was nullified because Dawson had stepped out of bounds before making the catch.
On fourth and 15, Grizzard threw a 24-yarder to flanker Rob Holmberg at the Richmond 15.
Navy's 11 completions and 23 pass attempts at halftime were higher than any full-game totals during the three-year Elliot Uzelac era.
The Midshipmen threw away the momentum when Rodney Purifoy fumbled on their first scrimmage play of the second half and Richmond linebacker Randy Kesselring recovered at the Navy 28.
The Spiders, who sputtered offensively most of the day, took advantage of this gift. From the 18, quarterback Mark Mascheck hit flanker Curtis Jefferson in the right flat and Jefferson escaped cornerback Darrell Graham's clutches to score.
Late in the third quarter, Navy had a second down at the Richmond one and was unable to score in three running plays, a failure that Chaump termed "embarrassing."
The Spiders eventually had to punt and Dawson carried it back 57 yards to the Richmond 6, only to have a clipping penalty wipe it out. Instead, Navy had the ball at its 31.
No problem. On first down, Dawson and split end B.J. Mason raced downfield and only one defender, cornerback James Balam, reacted. Balam chose to guard Mason and Dawson was alone when he took the pass for a touchdown. The 69-yard play marked Navy's longest touchdown pass since 1978.
"I wasn't the primary receiver," Dawson said of the touchdown. "I was just clearing the way for B.J. and the free safety didn't follow me, so I was open."
Mascheck led Richmond back, all the way to a first down at the Navy 29. But the Midshipmen stiffened and defensive tackle Chris Janke blocked a 43-yard field goal try by Courter.
Grizzard took Navy 65 yards in 11 plays for the clincher. Dawson grabbed a six-yard pass for the score on a free play, a flag having been thrown against Richmond.