Philadelphia, PA Ken Niumatalolo ABSOLUTELY had it right when he was asked about the “spectacle” surrounding Saturday’s Army-Navy game. Niumatalolo was asked if he was surprised by the fact that the game had so much hoopla and overall excitement despite the lack of true football significance, and he responded…
“I think most people understand what this game is about. It’s more than football.”
There’s no doubt that he’s correct in that statement.
Navy defeated Army 17-3 Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in a game that actually did have some real football significance, but the game continued to be about so much more than football. Ken Niumatalolo talked glowingly afterwards about the young men who chose to come to Annapolis or West Point, noting that the men on the field were there to become “better leaders” for this nation in a time of war against multiple enemies.
Nearly 70,000 fans packed “The Linc” for what has been nicknamed “America’s Game” by new presenting sponsor USAA. Millions more watched at home from the United States and around the world via CBS, as families everywhere were reminded of how their lives were affected so much by the decision of a loved one to defend this country and serve in one of these branches of the military.
The game is clearly not just a college football institution, but a cultural institution for those around the world. The city of Baltimore would be well served to continue to campaign for future installments of the rivalry; M&T Bank Stadium is scheduled to play host again in 2014 and 2016.
And with all of that said, the actual football side of the rivalry continues to be totally one-sided.
The Mids improved to 9-4 with their victory, and have the chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2004 under Paul Johnson when they play Missouri December 31 at Reliant Stadium. They also won the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy outright for the 7th consecutive year by sweeping Army and Air Force; establishing a new record for the series. They also prevented Army from clinching a berth in the EagleBank Bowl, which would have been their first bowl appearance since the 1996 Independence Bowl.
Even more impressively; the Midshipmen got the job done Saturday against an improved Army team, who appears to be closing the gap under first year head coach Rich Ellerson. While this was the 3rd straight year that Navy held Army without a touchdown in the game; this year they needed every single defensive stand.
The Midshipmen were uncharacteristic in turning the ball over twice in the first half, allowing Army to put points on the board and take a 3-0 lead to the locker room. Ricky Dobbs rallied his team to open the 2nd half; converting a crucial 4th and 1 before finding Marcus Curry for a 25 yard TD that would give the Mids a lead they would never relinquish.
With the win, the Midshipmen have now outscored the Midshipmen 89-6 over the last 3 seasons. In winning 8 straight over the Black Knights, all 8 wins have been by double digit figures.
Even more impressively, 5 full classes of seniors will now graduate from the Naval Academy having never known what it was like to lose to Army.
But this game ISN’T just about football. It just isn’t.
And the United States Military Academy couldn’t be more thankful for that.
5:50-The final stand for Army fails to produce even a single first down. Navy will win this one 17-3; extending their win streak over Army to 8 and winning their 7th straight outright Commader-In-Chief’s Trophy. Senior QB Greg Zingler takes the final knee.
Ricky Dobbs named game’s MVP.
I’ll be back with more shortly.
5:48-Navy will be forced to punt with under 2 minutes to play, Army will have no timeouts left when they get the ball. Navy seniors have brooms with them in the stands to signify that they are going to “sweep” all 4 games from another Army senior class. Navy students and fans jumping up and down and chanting during the previous timeout.
5:43-Steelman tried to find a quadruple-covered Villanueva in the endzone on 4th and 8 from the Navy 9; but the ball was tipped and intercepted by Ram Vela. Navy takes over at the 20 with 2:36 to play; this one is OVER.
5:40-Army is staying in this one by throwing the football on this drive. They’re inside the Navy 10 with just under 3 minutes to play and they have all 3 of their timeouts left.
5:36-Ross Pospisil received my vote for game MVP today. Had I been able to name Offensive and Defensive MVP’s, Ricky Dobbs would have been my offensive MVP.
5:30-Dobbs keeps it himself and plunges in from 1 yard out, extending Navy’s lead to 17-3 with 6:15 to play here in the 4th quarter. This one is just about over.
Dobbs has just broke a NCAA record with his 24th rushing TD by a quarterback this season. He has scored a TD in every game he started this season.
5:27-Ricky Dobbs averts a near disaster, recovering a fumble at Army’s 1 yard line. It’s 2nd and goal from there with 6:34 to play in this one.
5:25-Well, the exact opposite happened. Ross Pospisil forced a Kingsley Ehie fumble, which was picked up by Craig Schaefer and brought down to the Army 11 yard line. A score here might just end this one….
5:20-Big stop for Army forces Navy to punt. Josh Jones’ return gives Army the ball at their own 34 yard line with 8:20 to play in this one.
5:17-Army’s drive is halted at the 15, and they decide to kick to try to cut Navy’s lead.
Unfortunately, Alex Carlton’s 34 yard try was NEVER on line, missing badly to the left. Navy will take over from their own 20 holding on to a 10-3 lead.
5:14-Ali Villanueva fumbles after a hit by Emmett Merchant, but Army recovers at the Navy 21.
Ali Villanueva has 2 catches on this drive, and is tough for ANYONE IN THE WORLD to cover. Why? Probably because he’s 6’10” and 283 pounds.
5:11-Remember when Kevin Edwards was doubtful to return? So much for that. He’s back in as Army is driving. A first down pass to Ali Villanueva gets Army to the Mids’ 41. Villanueva? He’s just 6’10 and 283 pounds; so no trouble bringing him down…
5:03-Facing a 4th and 4 from the 19 yard line, Ken Niumatalolo opted to kick. Joe Buckley connected from 36, giving the Midshipmen a 10-3 lead with 0:11 to play in the 3rd quarter.
4:59-On this drive, Navy QB Ricky Dobbs has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season. He becomes the 3rd Navy QB in history to do so; joining Chris McCoy and Craig Candeto.
Navy CB Kevin Edwards is doubtful to return with a shoulder injury.
4:51-Navy AGAIN forces Army to punt, and the Mids will take over from their own 26 with 7:05 to play in the 3rd. After failing to score for the first 36 minutes of the game; a TD on this drive could break this wide open for Navy.
4:47-Navy/Army spirit videos continue on the big screens here at The Linc, with the highlights including a Navy “RickRoll”, having guys in Army outfits dancing in a very feminine way to “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.
Army had the head of Navy mascot “Bill The Goat” (the fake one, not the real one) being tossed around by Cadets before the game-the two schools often have legendary prank wars to go with the spirit videos.
4:41-Navy FINALLY breaks through. Dobbs finds a WIDE OPEN Marcus Curry in the endzone for his 3rd TD catch of the season….a 25 yard strike. Joe Buckey’s XP makes it 7-3 Midshipmen with 8:55 to play in the 3rd quarter.
That’s Dobbs’ first passing TD since a strike to Greg Jones in a win over the Fighting Irish.
4:39-The Mids DID end up going for it, and Ricky Dobbs managed to pick up the first down at the Army 27 yard line. Midshipmen could make a HUGE statement by punching this in for 6.
4:36-Navy now faces 4th and 1 from the Army 30, and they lined up to go for it. Ken Niumatalolo since took timeout. This would be about a 47 yard FG attempt for Jon Teague if they choose to kick.
4:32-HUGE 15 yard completion from Ricky Dobbs to Bobby Doyle on 3rd and 9 as the 2nd half is underway. The Midshipmen were in serious danger of a 3 and out to set the tone for the 2nd half. They need things to turn around in a hurry.
4:28-For the record, only ONE other Baltimore media member here today, as Kevin Cowherd from The Sun will write a column as well (they are using Camille Powell’s Washington Post game story). A season ago there were two Sun writers, as well as 2 writers from the now defunct Baltimore Examiner in attendance. I know there is a Maryland basketball game today and a Ravens game tomorrow; but given the success Navy has had this season and the fact that Philly is NOT that far away-I’m surprised no local TV people make this trip. Of course, they rarely do stand-ups at any event anymore…
4:07-First scoreless first half from Navy in Army-Navy game since 1993. I’ll be back with more shortly.
4:05-Navy went conservative; and were forced to punt from their own 40. Army will take over at their own 21 with 55 seconds left and no timeouts, I doubt they’ll try to do too much.
4:03-Big defensive plays allow Navy to get the ball back with no timeouts in the waning moments of the 1st half. They face 3rd and 11 from their own 38 with 1:09 to play.
3:56-Taking a look at the Navy games that will be played outside of Annapolis over the next couple of years….
2011 Washington (FedEx Field)
2012 & 2013 Philadelphia
2010 East Rutherford, NJ (new Meadowlands Stadium)
2011 South Bend
2012 Dubin, Ireland
2013 South Bend
(All odd years played at Notre Dame stadium, no locations have been determined for 2014 and beyond.)
(The schools would like to meet again in 2014-Ralph Friedgen has said he’d like to play annually-but Chet Gladchuk and Debbie Yow have yet to reach an agreement on a 2014 game.)
2014 TBD (It appears unlikely that the Buckeyes game will be in Baltimore, as Navy plays Army in Baltimore the same season. My guess is that the game will go to FedEx Field; but there have been rumors that OSU would be okay with playing the game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium; which seems even more unlikely.)
3:54 A holding penalty negates ANOTHER big pass, this one from Dobbs to Mario Washington. And Navy will be forced to punt AGAIN, this time from their own 42.
Army takes over at their own 16 with 2:55 to play in the first half.
3:50-Navy is moving the ball a bit, really needing a score to get this offense going again before halftime. For a game where we always say “take the over”, this game has clearly been a defensive struggle. 5 minutes to play in 2nd quarter; Navy faces a 2nd & 10 from their own 40 after taking their 2nd timeout of the half.
3:44-Damion Hunter tried to throw the ball to Trent Steelman downfield, but the pass was nearly intercepted by Wyatt Middleton. Nice to see a little razzle-dazzle from Rich Ellerson’s team though; wouldn’t mind seeing more from Cam Cameron in fact.
3:39-Sorry for the break, I had to go write up the Ravens’ activation of Justin Harper and waiving of Charles Ali. I’m back now.
Needing a big play to jump start their offense, Ricky Dobbs thought he had it with a BOMB brought in by Nick Henderson that would have gotten them inside the Army 10 yard line. But a holding call negated the play, and the Mids were eventually forced to punt. The Knights will take over at their own 19 about midway through the 2nd quarter.
3:24-One play later, disaster strikes Navy’s offense again. Vince Murray is hit and Andrew Rodriguez forces a fumble, which is recovered by Chris Swain at the Army 47. Great field position again for the Black Knights.
That’s the first fumble Vince Murray has lost in his career.
3:22-Navy hasn’t gone this long without scoring since a scoreless streak of 5 quarters back in the ’06 season.
Big pass from Dobbs to Vince Murray picks up a Navy first down; but a block in the back will force Navy back 10 yards to the Army 49.
3:17-After solid defensive plays by Wyatt Middleton and Ross Pospisil, Steelman through high to Ali Villanueva on a fade route in the endzone. Alex Carlton came in and connected from 23 yards out; giving Army a 3-0 lead. It is the first time Army has scored against Navy in the last 7 quarters between the two teams; it is the first time Army has lead Navy since the first quarter of the 2006 game. Alex Carlton’s 18th field goal ties a school record set by Jay Parker in 1996.
It’s 3-0 Army at the end of the first quarter. This means that Navy hasn’t scored in their last 3 quarters-dating back to the Hawaii game. That’s their longest streak of the season.
Alex Teich’s return gives Navy the ball at the Army 35.
3:14-A MAJOR momentum swing here, as Navy QB Ricky Dobbs was intercepted by Steven Erzinger, who returned the ball to the Navy 12 yard line in the final minute of the first quarter. It looked like Erzinger was going to get to the endzone, but he was stopped short. Navy defense must dig deep.
3:12-Ram Vela picks up his first sack of the season, forcing Army to punt. Navy will take over at their own 28 with 1:28 to play in the first quarter after a short return from Mario Washington.
3:08-Navy’s drive stalled at the Army 44, they were forced to punt. Delahooke didn’t get much on the punt, allowing Army to start from their own 28. Hard running from Patrick Mealy for the Knights thus far.
3:01-Army’s drive stalled at the Navy 30; where Alex Carlton entered and missed a 47 yard FG attempt. We remain scoreless.
On 2nd down, Marcus Curry springs a 16 yard run, and Navy has the ball at midfield.
2:52-Kyle Delahooke DID enter the game and punt, Army will take over on the Navy 42.
Odd note: both Army coach Rich Ellerson and Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo are Hawaii alumni. This week, Niumatalolo told a story of how Ellerson helped recruit him to play for the Warriors.
2:48-Navy managed to force Army to punt on their first drive. The Knights started with outstanding position, and tried to get QB Trent Steelman going early in the option, but were unable to make it work.
Navy lined up to go for it on 4th and 1 from their own 27, but called timeout before the play. Expect them to punt.
2:36-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates joined the teams on the field for today’s coin flip. Navy won the toss and chose to defer to the 2nd half. President George W. Bush attended last year’s game in his final year in office-he watched one half on the Army side of the field and the other half on the Navy side of the field. I do not believe President Obama is in attendance today; he of course was in Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize this week.
I am struck by how much Philly wants this game here annually. They have started a website, PhillyLovesArmyNavy.com, and Mayor Michael Nutter has spoken about keeping the game here permanently. The city of Baltimore and Sheila Dixon really need to step up to make sure M&T Bank Stadium remains in major rotation for the game. Of course, she has some other things on her mind…..
2:20-Greetings from the press box at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, where the 8-4 Navy Midshipmen tangle with the 5-6 Army Black Knights in the 110th Army-Navy game. The Mids are looking for their 7th straight victory over the Knights; and looking to wrap up a record 7th consecutive outright Commander-In-Chief’s trophy. Ken Niumatalolo is looking to become the first head coach in Service Academy history to claim the C-I-C Trophy in each of his first two seasons as head coach. The Midshipmen have already accepted a bid to the Texas Bowl to face Missouri on New Year’s Eve in Houston; but the Black Knights need a win today to clinch a bid to face Temple in the EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium. Should they lose, UCLA would take their bid; which means Rick Neuheisel is just about the biggest Navy fan on the face of the planet today.
The pre-game festivities have been OUTSTANDING thus far, and I am looking forward to the in-game spirit videos that will be shown on the screens at The Linc. Today’s game can be seen on CBS (WJZ 13 in Baltimore, Channel 23 on Comcast cable in Baltimore County); Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson have the call.
You can follow me on Twitter during the game (@WNST).