If Diogenes was searching for the last “pure” amateur football game – he need look no further than W.C. Fields favorite city – Philadelphia.
On Saturday afternoon, the City of Brotherly Love will once again play host to the 110th edition of Army versus Navy – between the Cadets of West Point and the Midshipmen of Annapolis.
The NCAA’s brilliant decision to play this game a week after the “big boys” have closed shop, allows it to glow in the national spot light it deserves. It is also special for another reason; the players and the students are the finest this country has to offer, – and make sure to celebrate the seniors, some may literally never have the opportunity to watch and cheer again.
The game also carries a very personal meaning. The first college football game I can remember watching was the 1963 meeting – which featured Navy’s Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach. I watched with my dad, on a black and white television, in the top floor living room of our Dorchester “tri-level” ranch. Some thirty-five years later, in 1998, I returned the favor and took the “old-man,” a WWII veteran, to Philly, to witness the game first hand. Through a friend of a friend, we scored seats on the 45 yard line, and to this day – my dad passed eight years ago – he still wonders how his kid pulled that off.
Now to the game: Army vs. Navy – Philadelphia (Ch.4, 2:30 p.m.) This should be the most competitive game in years. A victory by Army – a tall order – Navy has won the last seven – will earn the Black Knights it first bowl invitation – The Eagle Bank Bowl – since 1996.
First year coach Rich Ellerson, has the Boys from the Hudson marching in the right direction. Unfortunately, as the Army faithful are well aware, points (Army is 8th from the bottom in scoring -16 pts a game) are scarcer than an appearance by Tiger and Elin Woods, or any chick that hasn’t slept with Tiger. The nation’s top twenty option ground attack, led by running QB Trent Steelman (is there a better name for an Army quarterback?) and his backfield mates Patrick Mealy and Ehie Kingsley is dangerous, but hasn’t been able to sustain enough lengthy drives. The D, led by starry end Josh McNary (12.5 sacks – 22 tfls) and backer Andrew Rodriguez, ranks seventeenth overall, but shows vulnerability against the run which is the wrong battle plan against Navy.
Navy is what Army is trying to become. It is another eight win season for the Mids second-year Coach Ken Niumatalolo, who is continuing the winning tradition established by his predecessor Paul Johnson. Navy sails along as the nation’s third best rushing eleven (279 yds. a game) on the legs of its touchdown scoring (23TDs – 2nd in the country) junior QB, Ricky Dobbs, who along with tailback Vince Murray, have combined for over 1800 yards. The Boys from Annapolis also have a bit more powder in its guns, averaging 28 points a game. The D, behind backers Ross Pospisil and Tony Haberer, stops the run better than its rival, but overall, operates in a similar battle mode. We expect the Black Knights to give the Midshipmen, all it can handle, but in the end its Anchors Aweigh – as Navy captures its seventh consecutive Commander-In-Chief trophy. [If you watch the game, make sure you stay for the spine tingling traditional ending.]
Last week’s record: 4-1 Season’s record: 45-25.
This will be the last regular analysis of the season – if there is enough demand, we will return just before Christmas with our analysis of the BCS games. Until then- Peace and Merry Christmas.