The Biggest Game

By Adam Caparell - November 29, 2007

Saturday will mark the 108th time that Army and Navy have faced off on the football field and Navy coach Paul Johnson is quite cognizant of the fact his Midshipmen have a chance to do something that has never been done in the long and storied history of the "greatest rivalry in all of sports."

"We've got a chance Saturday to be the first team in the history of Army-Navy to win six straight games," Johnson said. "That's quite a feat if you understand how hard fought this rivalry is."

They may no longer play for the national championship, and Army hasn't seen a winning season in 11 years, but the magnitude of the game can't be understated enough.

Army-Navy has a larger than life kind of feel for so many reasons. In fact, players in the past who have played in football's biggest game, the Super Bowl, claim it doesn't compare to Army-Navy.

"You have to start with the way both teams feel about one another," Johnson said. "There's a great deal of admiration and respect for each other because these two teams probably mirror each other more than any other rivalry game in the country."

And of course there's the pageantry, the notable military officials who attend with usually a president or two in the building. But what probably resonates with the players more than anything is the fact that for many it will be their last football game ever.

Nearly every senior will graduate and enter into their respective service upon the conclusion of school and will probably never play organized football again. And considering where many will be headed, abroad to Iraq and Afghanistan, football quickly can become an afterthought.

"Once the game's over they're teammates in a much bigger battle," Johnson said.

Johnson himself could be participating in his last Army-Navy game. The most successful coach in Navy history has been rumored to be a potential candidate at Nebraska, but predictably Johnson won't talk about the Cornhuskers.

"It's a big game for us this week and that's where all our focus is," Johnson said.

Navy, at 7-4 on the season, has had two weeks to prepare for this one following their victory over Northern Illinois that sealed the deal on their Poinsettia Bowl bid. Army won't be sniffing the postseason after another sub-.500 season, but that doesn't mean Johnson isn't guarding against the upset. Especially after last season where Navy won a hard-fought 12 point victory in Philadelphia over a 3-9 Army squad.

"I don't want to take anything away from Army, but I believe we can play better than we did a year ago," Johnson said. "And we'll have to because they're better, I think."

That's debatable since Army comes in at 3-8 to this season's showdown as well, but you can guarantee the Black Knights will be leaving it all on the field Saturday in Baltimore. Especially when you consider how Navy consumes their every day lives.

It seems like everywhere you look on Army's West Point campus there's the "Go Army, Beat Navy" slogan. And maybe nothing exemplifies the Knights feelings toward the Midshipmen than the ever popular Beat Navy Tunnel.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 05:16 PM on November 29, 2007
Comments (1)


i served in the navy overseas in 70's & i along
with my chopper crew
never missed a broadcast or
replay while we were deployed.

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