ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 3 -- Navy Coach George Chaump was taken aback today when it was suggested he try punting on first down this Saturday at Air Force.

Each team gave the ball away six times in losing last week and the Midshipmen have been victimized by 14 turnovers in a 2-2 season. The Falcons have had 16 turnovers in going 2-3.

After considering the question, Chaump said: "I hadn't thought about that. It has some merit, I guess, but I don't think winning will come that easy. Rarely do you see a team turn the ball over six times in two straight games and I don't expect Air Force or Navy to do that again."

Both teams have excuses. The Midshipmen have stumbled while trying to adjust to Chaump's multiple offense after three years of wishing they could execute the wishbone. The Falcons, highly successful as a wishbone team with Dee Dowis at the controls, have been doing the Turkey Trot since his graduation in June.

"We've gone through a lot of quarterbacks," Coach Fisher DeBerry said today on a conference call. "Ronnie Gray made a lot of progress, then injured his knee in the warm-up for Wyoming. Now we're going with Jarvis Baker, who was a defensive back until the middle of last season.

"Jarvis is a lot like Dee in a lot of ways. He has a pretty good arm, he's able to change direction and he has pretty good speed. But you can't compare anybody to Dee Dowis. Look at all the quarterbacks who played the game and he ranks right up there with anyone."

Dowis, who rolled up 6,482 yards of total offense and scored 41 touchdowns, was the catalyst as Air Force beat Navy the last four years, running its streak to eight in what has become a one-sided series. But the Falcons obviously are vulnerable this time, as evidenced by last week's 48-18 loss to San Diego State, their worst beating by a Western Athletic Conference school since they joined up in 1980.

The Falcons are inept passing (13 of 46 for 174 yards in five games with four interceptions). They have fumbled 19 times, losing 12. Those figures might set Notre Dame fans to uproarious laughter (the Falcons will play the Irish Oct. 13), but the Midshipmen are in no position to laugh at anyone.

They have completed 59 of 130 passes for 702 yards, but they have been intercepted 10 times. Alton Grizzard has done all the throwing and there are signs that unless he sights the targets better Saturday, Chaump will be forced to give a shot to backup Gary McIntosh, who left the team for 10 days in early September.

"Gary McIntosh has returned, he's getting back into the swing of things and he's doing very well," Chaump said. "He's throwing the ball well and his attitude is great. It's only fair to get him ready to play football. He can take the pressure off Grizzard and be an asset to our football team."

Still, Chaump made it plain that he is reluctant to supplant Grizzard, who has been manhandled by opposing defenders, particularly Virginia and Boston College pass rushers who overwhelmed the Navy blockers.

"The quarterback takes the responsibility for interceptions, because he didn't have to throw and he didn't have to throw it there," Chaump said. "But what causes interceptions is heat -- pressure. If you can't protect better than we have, there's no reason to try to throw the football. Teams are coming after us and our young linemen are having problems.

"I don't think any other quarterback will stand in there and take the abuse {Grizzard} will take, not only with the ball but after throwing the ball. For some reason {the officials} let the quarterback be hit after he throws it. It's open season on quarterbacks -- not just us -- and it's something they'll have to look at."

DeBerry likes Grizzard too, saying: "Alton has done an outstanding job. I have as much respect for him as anybody. He's such a tremendous competitor. He's going through some growing pains with the transition to a new offense, but he's an excellent leader for their football team."

The game will be televised by Home Team Sports at 2 p.m.