ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 24 -- For Navy's battered football team, a week off was just what the doctor ordered. Now, with an eight-man injury list reduced to manageable proportions, the Midshipmen (3-3) are ready to rustle up some revenge when James Madison (4-3) comes visiting Saturday.
"We needed that week off," said Coach George Chaump. "We have a young team that was physically tired and needed time to iron out some wrinkles. I don't usually like a week off, but this was a blessing for us."
Outside linebackers Tony Domino and Duke Ingraham, both of whom missed the 17-13 victory over Akron Oct. 13, have returned to action, along with tailback Jason Van Meter, who suffered a bruised thigh against the Zips.
Questionable but expected to play Saturday is middle guard Andy Kirkland, who is nursing a strained knee. Still in doubt are Jerry Dawson, Navy's best receiver, who also banged up a knee, and fullback Kwame Moultrie, who gained 103 yards against Akron before spraining an ankle. Moultrie still was limping today.
Definitely out Saturday are linebacker Chris Beck, with a pinched nerve in his neck, and safety Darrell Graham, who most likely will require arthroscopic surgery to repair a knee.
Both senior quarterbacks, Alton Grizzard and Gary McIntosh, are healthy, which presents Chaump once more with the problem of 'Who's No. 1?' McIntosh started against Akron, but it was Grizzard who drove the Midshipmen to the winning points as a second-half reliever.
"We're splitting time and balancing it up," Chaump said. "They're both doing a good job. They're both practicing with number one, they're both listed as number one and, at the proper time, we'll make a decision."
Jim Pletcher, James Madison's defensive coordinator, offered a solution to Chaump's problem: "I'm hoping they'll both get a fall cruise to the Bahamas this week. Each guy presents his own problem to you and we'd be happy without either one."
Perhaps the single most important factor for the Midshipmen is Kirkland's availability. He was hurt last year too, and Elliot Uzelac, then the Navy coach, devised a unique defense without a middle guard to compensate. James Madison shredded it for 334 rushing yards and upset Navy, 24-20, in a game that probably sealed Uzelac's fate. He was fired at season's end despite a victory over Army.
"We've had a middle guard every week and we'll have one Saturday," Chaump said. "I'm just hoping it's Kirkland. He hasn't practiced yet, but we expect to have him back.
"You don't dwell on the past, but we can't forget what they did last year. It was embarrassing the way they were able to run the ball. We'll have to stop their fullback, something Navy was unable to do last year. We don't want another homecoming like that."
Willie Lanier, a 245-pounder, rambled for 114 yards last year for the Dukes. He has been splitting time this season with Joe Sparksman, a 220-pound redshirt freshman, and both are expected to see considerable action Saturday.
Chaump watched the Dukes in a 21-14 victory at Towson State Oct. 13 and said: "Sparksman appears a little bit quicker than Lanier. Although Lanier is big and powerful, I think Sparksman will start if he's healthy. They're a big, strong team and their offensive line is huge."
From tackle to tackle, James Madison's probable starters average 277 pounds, topped by right guard Chris Thurman at 310. Eric Baumgardner, a 290-pounder, will be missing Saturday because of a fractured hand.
The biggest man on Navy's defensive front is sophomore tackle Bob Kuberski at 271, with Kirkland weighing only 230.
Next week, Navy faces Notre Dame, and Chaump was asked if the Midshipmen might be looking ahead.
"If we don't beat James Madison, it would be ridiculous to talk about Notre Dame," Chaump said. "Most of the players were here last year and they remember what happened. I think they'll keep their minds on James Madison.
"I just hope that next week Notre Dame is thinking about Tennessee."