Getting an acceptance letter from the United States Military Academy or the Naval Academy is something to be proud of. Playing football is icing on the cake.
And so for the 112th time this past Saturday at FedEx Field, Army and Navy faced off, and like the previous nine meetings, the Midshipmen walked away victorious, 27-21.
Army was No. 1 in rushing with 351 yards, but last in passing with 48 yards.
There’s nothing fancy about the Black Knights’ triple-option attack: find the first hole and run through it.
Most of the time Army (375 total net yards with 298 on the ground) penetrated the middle of Navy’s defense. The Midshipmen (309 total yards) also employ a triple-option, but prefer sweeps.
College football offers many terrific rivalries like USC/UCLA, Auburn/Alabama, Michigan/Ohio State, Texas/Oklahoma, Stanford/California and Harvard/Yale.
They’re all nice, but none can equal the sheer thrill of watching the Cadets and Midshipmen march onto the field together before the kickoff.
There was even a time when this matchup decided the Associated Press poll’s national champion, which Army won in 1944 and 1945, and also boasted Heisman Trophy winners Felix “Doc” Blanchard in ‘45, Glenn Davis in ‘46, and Pete Dawkins in 1958, while Navy had Joe Bellino claim the statue in ‘60 and Roger Staubach in ‘63.
Navy’s edge against Army over the last nine meetings was nothing short of remarkable. During that span the Middies had taken each encounter by more than a dozen points.
This occasion would prove much harder even after Navy (5-7) sailed to a 14-0 lead behind senior quarterback Kriss Proctor’s four-yard run with 1:06 showing in the opening quarter, and senior fullback Alexander Teich’s 10-yard blast with 7:05 left in the second quarter.
Army senior quarterback Trent Steelman (12 carries for 62 yards and four of six passing for 77 yards) moved the Black Knights (3-9) 67 yards on eight plays and capped the drive with a 34-yard run and 3:34 left in the second quarter that made it 14-7.
Army running back Malcolm Brown’s five-yard dance with 49 seconds left before the half made it 14-14, and climaxed a 63-yard, seven-play march.
Brown had 82 yards on 11 carries, Raymond Maples 82 yards on 13 rushes, and Larry Dixon 65 yards on 10 carries.
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson was asked by CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson what the Cadets needed to do in the second half.
“We have to eliminate the turnovers,’’ he told her, “and play hard and have fun.” The Black Knights committed three miscues while the Midshipmen turned it over twice.
Proctor’s two-yard run early in the third quarter made it 21-14, but Steelman’s 25-yard pass to Brown with 9:45 left in the third quarter knotted it at 21-21.
“It’s been a tough season, but beating Army takes away some of the sting,’’ said Proctor, a California native who ran for 97 yards on 32 carries and completed one of three attempts for 13 yards. “I’m going to miss the brotherhood of all these guys.”
Teich finished with 93 yards on 18 rushes, was emotional and wants to be a Navy Seal. “It’s been a rough year for me, and the [one-game suspension] was the right thing,’’ he said. “These are a great bunch of guys and I’m going to miss my brothers.’’
Navy’s Jon Teague made a 23-yard field goal and a 44-yarder early in the final quarter.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.