"I like my situation over Jim's," Arians said yesterday.
It's been that kind of year at West Point for injuries at quarterback. Senior Tory Crawford, who rushed for 1,078 yards last season in the Army wishbone, suffered a sprained knee against Wake Forest on Oct. 3.
No. 2 quarterback Mark Mooney suffered a shoulder separation last week against Rutgers. With No. 3 man Bryan Babb out for the season after undergoing surgery, Young turned to No. 4 Morrell Savoy, who twisted his left ankle late in the fourth quarter. McWilliams ran the game's last two plays, his first
snaps with the varsity.
Crawford practiced with the team Monday, but Young said that he wasn't able to cut or engage in contact. Young said that Crawford had an "outside chance" of playing, but that there was a good chance he would not be ready.
With juniors Babb and Mooney out and Savoy, a sophomore, listed as probable, that doesn't leave Young with much of a choice but to put in the inexperienced McWilliams to run the Army wishbone.
"Injuries are part of the game," Young said yesterday, "but while you expect them, you don't expect to have four quarterbacks knocked out. The wishbone is an offense where you're vulnerable to injuries, but only one injury has come from running off the wishbone.
"It's been very tough on us. Crawford and Mooney provided us with excellent leadership, and the team responded to it. But we have a senior- dominated offense, and, with a freshman or sophomore quarterback, the confidence level goes down a little bit."
While McWilliams may have the physical tools to play the position, Arians said, it's a different ball game mentally when you're a freshman.
"They're so far behind in mental skills at this level," Arians said. ''They can pass and run well. But you can disguise defenses and change coverages when you're going up against a guy who hasn't practiced much."
Arians doesn't expect that to be the case for the Owls' quarterbacks on Saturday, even though sophomore Tony Lerro and redshirted freshman Matt Baker have thrown only nine passes - completing one - in extremely limited action.
Because Thompson informed Arians that he might leave the team last week, when the Owls had off, Lerro and Baker both received a lot of work in practice. They will now vie for the No. 1 spot, since Thompson told Arians on Monday that he was leaving the team.
And Arians, who said he would name his starter just before kickoff Saturday, said he would not be reluctant to use either one.
"Both throw the ball real well, and both can run, although they have different styles of running," Arians said. "Tony's more of a drop-back passer, and Matt is more of a scrambler. Both can run the option well.
"We're not going to change anything on offense with either of them in there. We can throw the ball 35 times Saturday or three times. I have no qualms about either of them throwing 35 times if we have to."
Lerro and Baker certainly would welcome the chance to throw 35 passes, but they're more concerned with playing well and having fun.
"It's really exciting this week," Baker said. "I'm just going to have fun, relax and play as well as I can."
"It's going to be a learning process," Lerro said. "I feel there's going to be a little pressure, but the main thing is to have fun."
So while it may be a difficult week for Arians as he tries to decide on a starting quarterback and figure out which Army quarterback to prepare for, you can just imagine that it's going to be harder for Young to do the same.
"We don't really know what to expect for their quarterback," Young said. ''I guess they'll be going down to their second team. Well, I'd be very happy to have a second-team quarterback right now. The problem is that we've lost so many."
NOTES. Arians said that tailback Todd McNair ran on his injured left foot during Monday's practice and complained of soreness afterward. "I thought he'd be ready to go by now, but right now he looks questionable," the coach said. "If he does play Saturday, it would probably be in a backup role." Should McNair, who suffered sprained ligaments against Tulsa on Oct. 10, be unable to start, freshman Tom Quinn will move in once again. . . . The Owls used the week off to heal many of their injured players. Wide receiver Keith Gloster said that his pulled hamstrings are 100 percent and will enable him to go full speed. Arians said that defensive linemen Rodney Walker, Mike Swanson and Mike Constantatos should be back, and that linebacker Lance Chisholm should be available for spot duty. . . . For name fans, Army features offensive tackle Brother Ratliff, strong safety Yale Peebles and kicker Bit Rambusch.