They call it a rivalry for a reason. Records really and truly do not matter once two bitter rivals find themselves between the white lines on the gridiron.
“That’s why you play the game,” as the cliche goes, and you can double down on that when it comes to a Service Academy rivalry.
Army has had Navy’s number for the last three years in some very tight match ups, but it’s not like Army started pulling these out of their hats starting in 2016. Even during Navy’s 14-year winning streak there were plenty of games where the ending was in doubt until the final cannon blast.
That was in the midst of the Navy football renaissance and the dark ages of Army football. Don’t take that as a dig, Army fans, you know as well as I do the Rich Ellerson and Bobby Ross eras were absolutely abysmal. My point, however, is that every December those teams still showed up and made it a rivalry worthy its pageantry and prestige. The only time it truly got out of hand was in 2007 and 2008 when Navy won by a combined score of 72-3. Other than that, however, the rest of those contests were knock down drag outs at least most of the time.
Here we are in 2019, and for a while there it looked like the tables had turned. Navy was coming off its worst season in nearly 20 years and Army had just capped off back-to-back seasons with double digit wins. The class of 2020 was looking like it would be the first group of seniors from West Point to sweep the Midshipmen since 1996. But then Brian Newberry and the Malcolm Perry renaissance happened, and then Army went back to looking like…well Army, I guess. But I’m not here to talk about why Army is going to lose. I’m a positive person, so I’m going to go over why Navy will win!
Look, I know I said the records don’t matter and I absolutely meant it. I would not be shocked if Army pulls the upset on Saturday. Let’s be honest though, all indications and warnings suggest Navy is looking as good as it ever has been and is in an excellent position to bring the Commander-in-Chiefs trophy back to its rightful place in Annapolis, Md.
Did you know the Navy Defense has been top 25 in almost every major category for a majority of the season? You remove the Houston shoot out and the Notre Dame blow out and Navy was rolling out a top-ten defense most of the season. They are that good, and Coach Ken will be lucky to keep Coach Newberry around past next season. Navy fans everywhere have been loving something they haven’t seen since the 1960s— a dominant defense.
Juniors Jacob Springer and Evan Fochtman have been incredible this year, and sophomore Diego Fagot is looking a little too much like Alohi Gilman for my comfort. This squad has completely stifled very competent and powerful offenses throughout the season, and it’s not like defending the triple option is completely foreign to them. Army has been rolling at times, but they aren’t nearly as effective as they were last season. The Black Knights greatest strength is the ability keep the chains moving and the opposing offense on the sideline, but they shouldn’t bank on the game plan on Saturday. I’m not suggesting they suddenly look to become a quick strike offense, but if Army is unable to sustain drives, and they give Malcolm the rock too many times, this may get out of hand quickly.
Speaking of Malcolm Perry, can we just acknowledge the incredible transformation the future Marine Officer has made this season? I have seen some tough and impressive young men come through the Navy Football program, but few compare to this warrior. Look what happened to this offense when Coaches Niumatalolo and Jasper committed to Perry as the QB, after an incredibly confusing three seasons for the starting running back/quarterback hybrid.
Can you imagine what would have happened if they committed to him during his youngster year? Don’t read into that, I think very highly of Zach Abey. However, Perry has clearly demonstrated himself to be the superior triple option maestro. His ability to sling the rock this season is what really put him over the top, as he’s averaging just south of 100 yards a game through the air.
But it’s not just Perry.
You don’t get to be the number one rushing offense in the country without some incredible play from the men up front, and Ford Higgins has been leading that effort. While we’re talking about the running backs, let’s hear it for the slot backs! Malcolm has been terrific at getting lateral and setting up the A’s to make those plays! But the biggest surprise in the backfield has undoubtedly been Jamale Carothers, who’s been unreal this season. He basically unseated Nelson Smith who did literally nothing wrong —Carothers has just been that effective. You also can’t forget Perry’s favorite deep threat this season Mychal Cooper who has also been making big plays all year long.
Army has been battling injuries all season, so if you want to look for a reasonable excuse for their decline, there you have it. At least they beat all three FCS programs they played this year right? As I mentioned early, I have every confidence Army will show up in their neat little khaki uniform and put up a fight. No one in Annapolis is assuming the Black Knights will roll over in Lincoln Financial and neither should you.
Fans of the movie gladiator will understand where I’m going with that.
In any event, I’m pretty superstitious, so I am not about to oversell any amount of confidence in either Navy’s dominance this season, or Army’s alarming backslide. Records don’t matter—remember?
I think you can expect a hard fought battle in the city of brotherly love this weekend, but one in which the Navy class of 2020 prevents a sweep, and the Men of Ken start the buses to the White House. Then again, that’s why you play the game right?
#GoNavy #BeatArmy #RollGoats #WeGiveAShip #HelmYea #NaptownFunk #FreshMidsOfPhilly