Twenty years ago, less than three months after terrorists attacked this nation, the football teams from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis met on a field in Philadelphia. The country had been through a whole lot of pain, but the Midshipmen and Black Knights tackling each other over a pigskin football felt normal. It felt right. And it felt needed.
Many of the men who played in the game that day — a 26-17 win by Army, the Black Knights’ last before Navy began a 14-year winning streak — went on to fight in the Middle East, in the war sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks. The men on the football field that afternoon would take to the air, the seas and the ground, to ensure the freedoms that many of us take for granted. Because of them, we can vegetate on the sofa every Saturday in the fall and mindlessly consume college football while the world continues to turn.
For many of the men who play in the Army-Navy game, its the last bit of organized tackle football they’ll ever play — save for some bowl that might happen a few weeks after. Only a rare select few of these guys will get a chance to play football professionally. The rest of them will be serving our country and ensuring its protection.
It’s only right that the final Saturday of college football’s regular season is reserved solely for Army-Navy. There are no other FBS contests being played, and that’s the way it should be for the rest of time.
Yes, there’s pageantry (you’ll hear that word a lot around this game). And yes, there’s the triple-option (you’ll hear that term a whole lot too), but this match-up is about so much more than pre-game marches and fullback traps. In a sport that’s full of fake and forced patriotism, this is the game where it’s genuine, real and meaningful. After all, this is a contest played between Cadets and Midshipmen — future soldiers and sailors, future commanders and lieutenants, and future veterans. And in a sport full of transfers and deals, firings and hirings, bag men and big-money coaches, these two teams are made up of men without endorsement contracts. They have one commitment and one common objective.
It’s only once a year where their goals diverge. On the second Saturday in December, one side is aiming to Beat Navy. The other is trying to Beat Army.
They’re both trying to win first and sing second.
This season, the game might be more important to Navy. It’s been a tough season for the Midshipmen, who have a 3-8 record. Not only have the Mids lost quite often, but there’s been turmoil in the program too. After losing to Air Force, the athletic director dismissed the offensive coordinator. He was brought back quickly, but in a reduced role. Navy’s offense eventually got its act together and the Mids got a crucial win over UCF and came close to upsetting Cincinnati. Navy is entering the game with some momentum, coming off a victory over Temple. A win over Army would make graduates and fans forget all about every loss and incident this season. When you beat Army, nothing else matters.
At stake for Army is another Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. The Black Knights already beat Air Force, so topping Navy would give them their fourth C.I.C. in five seasons. Jeff Monken’s side has beaten the Mids often recently, and Navy’s streak seems like a distant memory. Army is 8-3 this season, with its only losses coming against Ball State, Wisconsin and Wake Forest. The Black Knights enter this one with a four-game win streak. Perhaps more important than extending that run though is being able to say that Army beat Navy in back-to-back seasons.
The rivalry is real and deep. There’s folks in the Pentagon that bet on this game. Often, the President shows up. Leading up to the contest, shenanigans ensue. Sometimes, mascots get stolen. Every year, the stadium is packed.
But after the game is over, after both alma maters are sang, the objectives of the Mids and Cadets become joined again. When the final whistle sounds, there are hugs and handshakes among brothers — among young men volunteering to serve their country.
That’s why this contest is special. That’s why it’s one of a kind. That’s why it deserves our undivided attention.
Last year, the game was played amidst the fog, with a reduced capacity because of the pandemic. But normalcy is returning. This year, fans are back, traditions are returning, and so is the best rivalry in all of college football.
- When: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021 — 3 p.m. EST | LIVE STATS
- Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, New Jersey
- TV: CBS | Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and Jamie Erdahl will have the call.
- Stream: CBS Sports | Paramount+
- Radio: John Sadak, Ross Tucker and Tina Cervasio-McKearney will have the national radio call for Westwood One, Sirius XM Channel 84. (TEAM RADIO CALLS: ARMY | NAVY)
- Also on TV: ESPN College GameDay will broadcast live from MetLife Stadium from 9 a.m. to noon. CBS Sports Network will air the Army-Navy March-On from noon to 1:30 p.m. and then Inside College Football: Army-Navy Tailgate from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Coverage on CBS will begin at 2:30 p.m. with College Football Today’s Adam Zucker, Brian Jones and Rick Neuheisel.
- Weather: By kickoff, it’s supposed to be 62 degrees and cloudy. The chance of rain jumps to 31% by 4 p.m. EST. Winds will be blowing around 13 mph. (Weather.com)
- Odds: Most sportsbooks have Army favored by 7.5 with the over-under set at 35.
For the first time since 1969, Army did not allow Navy to score and the Black Knights won 15-0 at West Point. Army held Navy to 1-for-11 on third downs, allowed them to complete 1-of-7 passes and forced them into a costly fourth quarter turnover and an unfortunate safety.
Army’s Tyhier Tyler logged 26 carries for 96 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown. Arik Smith and Amadeo West each had nine total tackles for the Black Knights.
Army controlled the time of possession, owning more than 35 minutes of clock. The defensive battle ended with 15 total punts and both teams combining for 5-of-25 on third downs.
Numbers to Know, Courtesy of the Game Notes
- Navy leads the overall series, which dates back to 1890, 61-53-7.
- Since the series began, MetLife Stadium is 16th different venue for the game.
- An Army win on Saturday will be the 100th victory for Jeff Monken as the Black Knights’ head coach. It would make him the second-winningest head coach in program history.
- With nine wins, Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo is the winningest coach in the history of the Army-Navy game. A win for Monken on Saturday would be his fifth.
- Navy’s 12 opponents this year are a combined 89-45 (.664), which is the third-toughest schedule in the country based on opponent winning percentage. Of Navy’s 12 opponents, 11 are going to a bowl game.
- Army’s Andre Carter II leads the nation in sacks with 14.5.
- Navy is starting nine freshmen on the kickoff return team, including Maquel Haywood who is averaging a school-record 36.1 yards per return.
- Army is averaging 78 more yards per-game than the top SEC rushing attack.
- Navy has started nine different offensive line combinations in 11 games.
- Army’s JaKobi Buchanan has 233 consecutive carries without losing a yard.
- Navy senior linebacker Diego Fagot was named First-Team All-American Athletic Conference for the second time in his career, while junior kicker Bijan Nichols was named to the second team.
Army will capture the trophy outright with a win over Navy. The Black Knights topped Air Force in a baseball stadium in Texas a few weeks ago, 21-14 in overtime.
If Navy wins the game, it would result in a three-way tie for the C.I.C., meaning that the trophy would stay in West Point since Army won it last year. Air Force beat Navy earlier this season, 23-3. There have been four three-way ties in the history of the trophy: 1993, 1980, 1976, 1974.
- Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo and Army’s Jeff Monken have ‘evolved’ triple-option pioneered by Paul Johnson | Bill Wagner — Capital Gazette
- Triple-option coaches see their influence throughout college football — except in the coaching carousel | Nicole Auerbach — The Athletic
- Army-Navy returns to Meadowlands for just fifth time in game’s storied history | Matthew Roberson — New York Daily News
- Navy SB Chance Warren’s passion elevated him from scout team to captain | Katherine Fominykh — Capital Gazette
- Army QB Christian Anderson believes hardships have shaped his character | Ken McMillan — Times Herald Record
- How low can Army and Navy go? Expect another low-scoring game in 122nd meeting | Scott Allen — Washington Post
- My Favorite Bet: The Under in Service Academy Football Games | Richard Johnson — Sports Illustrated
- In New Era for College Sports, Army-Navy Is a Student-Athlete Showcase | Joe Drape — New York Times
And From This Here Blog...
- Jeff Monken: Army “could care less” about bowl game; focused on beating Navy — Mitchell Northam
- What to expect from Army’s offense and defense vs. Navy — Kaylah Jackson
- Navy aims to continue strong defense against Army — Nick Lorensen
- Ahead of football matchup, Army-Navy renew rivalry on the ice — Joe Kramer
- Mids’ offense is at its best heading into Army-Navy game — Nick Lorensen
Army Cadets Tried to Get Navy’s Goat, Again. Commanders Were Not Amused | Dave Phillips — New York Times
For Against All Enemies and SB Nation, Nick Lorensen will be covering the Army-Navy game in-person at MetLife Stadium. Follow him for updates on Twitter at: @nlorensensports.