PHILADELPHIA — December 14 was an ugly day in the city of Brotherly Love. It was cold. It was wet. It was foggy. It was nasty.
And it was just perfect for the Navy Midshipmen.
The Army Black Knights scored first on a short scamper from impromptu starting quarterback Christian Anderson. It was a drive — lasting more than 10 minutes over 18 plays — that could demoralize and kill the spirits of a defense.
But the all the Mids did was buckle down. Army never sniffed the end-zone again and Malcolm Perry ran, ran, ran, ran and ran some more. The 5-foot-10 senior from Clarksville, Tennessee rewrote record books, broke ankles, confused and eluded defenders, en route to a final stat line of 29 carries for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
Navy won its 120th meeting with its rival in dominant fashion, 31-7, and ended Army’s mini-streak of three-straight wins in the series.
In singing second and claiming the C.I.C. for the first time since 2015, the Mids righted all the wrongs from an abysmal 2018 campaign. Perry — with the confidence of his coaches and teammates fully behind him — ran over, around and through Army. The defense, re-imagined and strengthened by the tactics of first-year defensive coordinator Brian Newberry, couldn’t have played better.
“I couldn’t be happier to see Malcolm Perry graduate,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said. “He is a terrific player. He ran through us today. There wasn’t much we could do about it.”
On the Mids’ defense, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said: “The players executed... Brian Newberry and his staff have been unbelievable. Just what they have done with our defense, and our kids have bought in. They play really hard.”
The Midshipmen still have a bowl game to play, but this was the real exclamation point to their season: a 10-2 record, ranked No. 23 by the Playoff Committee, and a C.I.C. trophy. If beating Army was the cherry on top of the Mids’ sundae, a win over Kansas State in Memphis could be considered as sprinkles, or a drizzle of hot fudge.
“It means the world,” Perry said of beating Army. “Coming into the season, personally, it was my biggest goal... For me personally, this was the biggest game I have ever played in my life.”
Navy linebacker Nizaire Cromartie added: “This was probably the most important thing this season. After beating Air Force, we had the opportunity to win the C.I.C. That, to me, was more important than just beating Army... We are on our way to the White House. We are going to get a ring on our finger.
This was the second time I had covered an Army-Navy game. The first was in 2016, when I was a reporter for the Delmarva Daily Times in Salisbury, Maryland. The game was in Baltimore and Army won. And I could feel some of the pageantry and weight and awesomeness that this game carries as I sat in my seat in the press box, trying to file a story on deadline. But I kept catching myself glancing over the top of my laptop to watch the Army Cadets leap from their seats onto the field. I wanted to be down on the field, to soak in those moments, to hear the singing of the Alma Maters.
So, I decided that day, if I ever got the chance to cover another Army-Navy game, I would get a field credential and take photos.
And, truly, it was a blast. The cost of the hotel and the flight (the latter of which gave me a cold, I think) was all worth it. It was a game I’ll never forget. Mostly, I’ll always remember Perry sprinting past me as I stood on the Army sideline, Navy’s gusty play called just before halftime (“the Navy special”) and standing near Niumatalolo and others as the Brigade sang “Navy Blue and Gold.”
Below is a gallery of 75 photos I captured last Saturday, from the foggy walk to the stadium, through the pregame festivities and of the historic day for Perry and the Midshipmen.