For the Love of the Game…and Country

A historic game that means more than the final score. Photo Courtesy:  West Point - The U.S. Military Academy
A historic game that means more than the final score. Photo Courtesy: West Point – The U.S. Military Academy

By Will Martin

Game Info
Saturday – December 14 – 2:00 PM
Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia

Its roots began in 1890 with the city of Philadelphia having hosted the annual event the longest over the years at a neutral site.

There have been meetings at the Polo Grounds in 1925, the Rose Bowl 1983, and even Soldiers Field in Chicago 1926.

There have been a total of 113 meetings while the event has been held annually since 1930.

Initially on the weekend of Thanksgiving now it plays the second Saturday in December. Like it shall on December 14th at the “Link”.

Of course I speak of Army versus Navy. Ken Niumatalolo against Rich Ellerson.

To those who wish to pooh-pooh all that is bad about the state of college football today this is the one game I urge anyone who loves being patriotic and college football a watch and look-see.

From the Super Hornets flyover and the Army paratroopers grabbing your attention during pregame to the overall tenor of the game, this is a game I will watch with added urgency. This year for two reasons as Navy will be one of the two representatives in the 2013 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon Carter Stadium on December 30th.

Navy has enjoyed the longest winning streak in the rivalry, 11 years since 2002. Navy has also provided the highest margin of victory (51-0 in 1973) and highest scoring game ever (58-12 in 2002). There are 365 days in a calendar year that recognize these two arms of service that go hand in hand and work together.

Green Bay vs. Chicago, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs, Cardinals vs. Cubs, Raiders vs. Chiefs all have some serious rivalry history. Minute compared to Army-Navy!

On December 14th that all changes for inter service bragging rights, for pride, for the coveted Thompson Cup and yes, for the love of the game. You see, very few of these players who serve for us get the chance to play the game of football once their college time is done. By NFL standards, most of these fine men are deemed too old to play. Of course men like Roger Staubach, Phil McConkey,and Napoleon McCallum are the exception.

Service to a higher calling takes precedence. One that both Army and Navy take very seriously. You can bet that many a future military or governmental leader will come to prominence years after this spirited rivalry is played and reminisced.

Navy leads the overall record in the rivalry 57-49-7. Army comes into the game with a 3-8 record despite two losses by a touchdown or less in their last two games to Western Kentucky and Hawaii.

Junior Angel Santiago will lead the Black Knights at the QB with a sturdy rushing tandem of thousand yard rushers Terry Baggett and Larry Dixon. Baggett will also double as a wide out alongside Houston freshman Xavier Moss who has amassed 413 yards on 30 carries.

The guy I’m keeping my eye on will be the double threat Midshipman QB Keenan Reynolds-a sophomore-who has compiled 1,000 yards and passing. Only the fourth time that has happened in Navy history.

You can also expect to hear the names of Cody Peterson and DJ Sargenti mentioned often when the Navy defense is on the field. 221 tackles combined for that duo.

Also interesting to note: Navy has scored on 46 of its 51 possessions (.902) in the red zone this year, scoring 39 touchdowns, kicking seven field goals, while only missing two field goals, had two interceptions and took a knee to end the game in Navy’s 51-7 victory over Delaware.

Something else you’re going to see and hear a lot is “Triple Option”. Something both teams do to perfection as Army leads the nation with 323 yards a game while Navy is third at 320 per game.

This game also holds another anniversary distinction. 50 years ago the use of instant replay was birthed during this wondrous rivalry. One where I believe Army will keep it close before Navy pulls away late 28-20.

Yes, it’s just a game. Played for their teammates, fans, for pride, for country, for the trophy, and for the love of the game. A game no longer played when duty calls.