Curator Sam Burnham One of my favorite things about college football is tradition. You’d be hard pressed to find a game with a more storied tradition than the one being played today.
For well over a century, these two institutions have produced the officers who have led our military in the defense of our freedoms world-wide. Both the Union and Confederate armies were led by West Point grads. John Pershing and Dwight Eisenhower were both West Point grads. President Jimmy Carter, Senator John McCain, and astronauts Wally Schirra, James Irwin, and Jim Lovell were Navy grads. Chester Nimitz and William “Bull” Halsey are just two Navy grads who led us to victory over Imperial Japan.
The alumni list of these two institutions reads like a chronicle of American History. They’ve won our wars, served in office, walked on the moon, led businesses, engineered modern wonders, they’ve led in ever area of life. And while the game today is the biggest of the year, perhaps the biggest of their playing careers, it is possible this day will not register on the list of accomplishments these men will achieve.
But today’s game is special for another reason. The men who play today will be representing their branches, inspiring the pride of men and women standing on every continent and floating on every sea, who pledge their lives to the defense of American liberty and independence. Officers and enlisted will both cheer for them heir respective branches. Active duty, reserves, and veterans will look to these young men today to fight for bragging rights against the other branch - a foe in competition on this day, a teammate on every other.
While Navy has had a difficult season, while Army has found much more success, and while Army comes in as a heavy favorite, Navy is looking avenge last year's streak breaking loss. This is their chance to salvage everything, the whole year. All is a success if they can put together 4 strong quarters in Philadelphia against Army. Look foir old school traditional ground control football with a touch of the modern via the triple option. There will be a lot of hard nosed "low pad wins" type football today. I'm feeling good about Navy's chances. I'm going with the Middies.
And so we prepare for Army-Navy. The Black Knights vs the Midshipmen. For me, that means my first year as a Navy Dad. There’s a little more at stake this year. It’s a little more personal. And for that reason I proudly shout GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!
But best of luck and a humble “thank you” to both.
Coach Drew Burnham This game is so much bigger than football for those that play in it, coach in it or watch it. I will get to all of that, but the coach in me wants to know the numbers. The records seem to show that Army should win this one in a runaway, but don’t count on that. Navy has played a tumultuous schedule this year, especially if you look at the offenses they have faced, having taken on Memphis, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and UCF (say what you will, those boys can score!). The defense has been the downfall for Navy this year, surrendering 34 Points/game. Offensive production has not been lacking, and in reality is very evenly matched with the highly successful Army team. Defense has been the issue. Playing the quality offenses listed week after week has taken its toll.
Army has been extremely efficient this season and while you may say that their schedule has been easier to handle than Navy, let us not forget that they DID play Oklahoma to a 7 point game. They are averaging right at 30 points/game and the defense has been stingy (mostly due to limiting the other teams number of drives due to extreme ball control) allowing only 18 points a contest.
HOWEVER, none of that matters. Not even a little bit. This is Army/Navy and all bets are off. I have been very fortunate in my career to come in contact at some point with both sides of this beast. During an internship, I was part of an off-site training camp practice at the Naval Academy. Even in the summer it was obvious that though they would play 12 teams that season, there was only 1 on the schedule. Signs, t-shirts, shoes, goal post pads and anything else you could put writing on all read one consistent message: Beat Army!
Just this last week on the recruiting trail I ran into a student athlete who I had previously recruited who ended up committing to West Point. We spoke while I was in the school and I told him how proud I was of him and how much I looked forward to his future. On my way out the door, I looked across a gym at him and yelled his name. He looked at me and I yelled “GO ARMY!” to which he very naturally and enthusiastically replied “BEAT NAVY!!”. This game has a set of lungs full of breath and a soul of its own. It means so much to so many people who should mean so much to all of us. These young men did not make their college football decision based on facilities, or gear, or wins and losses, or stars on their rivals page or any of the other meaningless things recruits make decisions based off of. They decided that protecting you and me was what they wanted to do, and if they play ball on the way that’s just icing on the cake. This is my absolute favorite game of the year and I so look forward to the kick off of this one. I do think Army wins in a major slugfest, but this game is bigger than the win for everyone involved. Go Army! Go Navy!