NAVY 34, ARMY 7

Looking at the final statistics from Saturday, you might think that this year’s edition of Army-Navy was completely different from the nip-and-tuck affairs of the recent past. This looked like a blowout, with Navy winning 34-7 and out-gaining Army 343-157 on the ground. There is no greater truth than the scoreboard, so in that I suppose you could call the game a rout. It sure didn’t feel that way as it happened, though, and once you dig a little deeper into the numbers you can see why. Both teams struggled to convert on 3rd downs, and combined for 12 punts. Four runs made up 165 of Navy’s rushing yards; it took 53 more to get the other 178, which is why the game felt like such a grind. Take those long runs away, and Navy’s advantage becomes a lot more modest. Unfortunately for Army, the big plays count as much as any other, and the Mids’ ability to make them was the difference in the game.

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BETTER THEM THAN US

On a human level, it’s only natural to feel some measure of sympathy for Army after losing to Navy for the last 12 years. Anyone that has ever attempted anything worthwhile has at some point failed to do so and can relate to how that feels. We know the emotion of the game and see images like an inconsolable Trent Steelman last year and can’t helped but be moved. That’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and it’s why people watch sports. However, while I understand Army’s frustration, I’m not sure why I should care about it.

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Postgame Haiku, Vol. 73

O glorious day
Not rain nor snow nor Army
Stops this Navy team

ARMY WEEK: THE GAME

Does Rich Ellerson’s job hang in the balance on Saturday?

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ARMY WEEK: LET’S TALK UNIFORMS

I assume that by now you’ve all seen what Navy will be wearing at Saturday’s Army-Navy game. If not, then point your face at these glorious images and bask in their warm glow of excellence.

These are the home version of last year’s equally fantastic Nike uniforms, and I sort of wish that this was our permanent setup. It’s modern, yet still restrained, and undeniably Navy. I know some of you don’t like the look, and it’s understandable. You can’t be blamed for your horrible taste. What one could be blamed for, however, is saying that you don’t want something new because of “tradition.” Navy’s only uniform tradition is one of constant change. Sometimes it’s evolutionary, sometimes it’s revolutionary, but it’s always changing. The uniform that Navy wears now is different from the one from ten years ago, which was different from the one from ten years before that. Designs have changed, colors have changed, helmets have changed. We’ve seen all manner of combinations of blue, gold, and white between shirts and pants, complete with various stripes and shoulder hoops and patches and whatever else you can think of. Then there’s the helmets, which have had anchors (awesome, awesome anchors), numbers, and stripes at times over the years. And all that is before you factor in what Navy has worn for the Army-Navy game, which has had all kinds of bonkers stuff. And that’s Navy’s uniform tradition: to have fun with them. Despite what the “down in front” sourpuss that sits behind you at NMCMS and leaves at halftime says, football should be fun.

When people say “tradition,” what they’re really saying is that they want Navy to be plain. That’s fine if that’s your taste, but it’s not the same as tradition. Did Navy fans of the ’40s complain that uniforms didn’t look like this anymore? I don’t know, but if they did I’m glad that nobody listened to them. Navy isn’t Alabama or Penn State, where the traditional football uniform is part of the brand image of the program (and the school for that matter). Navy’s brand is defined by other things. That doesn’t mean that any change is great simply because it’s new; there’s a certain classiness that we want to convey, and nobody wants to look at a jumbled mess. But if something sharp comes along that helps showcase the Navy team, I say go for it. If you don’t like it, don’t worry. It’ll probably change in a few years anyway.

(Seriously, though. Anchors.)

ARMY WEEK: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ARMY?

You didn’t think I was going to sit this one out, did you?

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ARMY WEEK

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Navy fans, what with conference realignment starting again and Arizona State receiving a bid to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. We’ll get to all that stuff in due time. Right now, only one thing matters. You know what it is.

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Links 6/7

- CBS has announced a partial 2012 TV schedule for football. We’ve known for a while now that Navy’s match-ups against Notre Dame and Air Force are going to be on CBS with morning kick-off times. The big news here for Navy fans is that the Army-Navy game will kick-off at 3pm EST.

I have to disagree with Sal here. It’s not a weird time. It puts kickoff at noon PST, making it that much more attractive to viewers west of the Mississippi. We all know the game got a bump by shifting to the weekend after conference championships. Perhaps we can get a few more viewers with this slight adjustment (last year the kickoff was at 2:30pm EST). With the Big East TV deal looming, any boost in Army-Navy ratings now will deliver more TV dollars later.

- Navy Baseball had two players drafted in this year’s MLB draft. The Blue Jays selected outfielder Alex Azor in the 10th round – putting him as the highest drafted Navy player of all time – while the Brewers took pitcher Preston Gainey in the 11th round.

- Navy’s Zack Duncavage, a Youngster, placed 16th in the discus at the NCAA track and field championships this week. His finish nets him 2nd team All-American honors.

- Finally, this one slipped through the cracks at the beginning of the week, but bears mention. The Navy Men’s Lightweight Four won the IRA National Championship this past weekend in Camden, NJ. This was the final feather in the cap of Coach Rick Clothier, who has retired after leading the crew program for 38 years.

Where are they now: Commander Frank Schenk, USN

I watched my first ever Army-Navy game in 1989. My cousin was a youngster at USNA so I thought I’d watch the game. Having grown up next to West Point, I knew the Army-Navy game was a big deal and I also knew that Army was pretty good. The year prior, Army played Alabama in the Sun Bowl where Alabama edged the Cadets 29-28. Army was led by Mike Mayweather, a stellar running back and one of the best Service Academy running backs in the last 50 years. Navy, on the other hand, hadn’t posted a winning season since 1982 and had lost to Army three times in a row. Army entered the game 6-4 and Navy 2-8, so I wasn’t expecting much of a game from the Mids.

Boy, was I wrong. Navy got out to a quick lead 9-0 lead and the game went back and forth for four quarters. With Navy trailing 17-16 lat in the 4th quarter, Alton Grizzard drove the Mids down the field. With 1 minute to go and facing a 4th and 2 on the Army 35, Grizzard barreled his way to a first down on a QB keeper. Grizzard then drove Navy to the Army 15 and stopped the clock with a mere 15 seconds to play. Navy Head Coach Elliot Uzelac called Frank Schenk from the sideline: “This is what you and I talked about. This is it! Piece of cake!” Army Coach Jim Young then called time out in an attempt to ice Schenk. As Schenk trotted back to the sideline, Uzelac grabbed him and barked, “give me a 7 Iron and you and I are dancing and drinking champagne tonight.” A minute later Frank Schenk split the uprights and put Navy on top for good 19-17. It was a huge win for Navy and a dream come true for Midn 2/c Schenk.

I had the opportunity to speak with now Captain (sel) Frank Schenk, USN this weekend. He’s had quite a career since graduating from USNA with the Class of 1991.

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With an eye on Thanksgiving

Navy’s streak of eight consecutive bowls is over. But with Thanksgiving on the horizon, it’s time to give thanks for the streak that was and look for positives amid its end.

1. Army-Navy has its own day

I wasn’t always a fan of the decision to move Army-Navy back one week. I worried about being one week colder in the stands; about Navy having one week less prep time/healing time for the bowl game; and about my brother, whose wedding anniversary is the once-safe Dec. 12.

The move sure looks smart this year. Even with the recent, and welcome, surge in patriotism in our country, I’m not liking the chances that Army-Navy would get the attention it deserves if it were on the same day as the SEC championship, the Big Ten championship, the ACC championship and, this year at least, a couple pretty compelling Big 12 games (Texas-Baylor and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State).

2. Navy has basketball teams

There is much new energy around the Navy men’s and women’s basketball teams this season. The Navy men’s team appears back to the defense-and-rebounding-first approach that made Patriot League games fun to watch (and somewhat winnable) under Don DeVoe. The women’s team is coming off an historic season with an NCAA tournament berth.

I lost Navy men’s and women’s basketball on my radar in recent years. It was still football season into late December with the bowl, then bowl recovery/analysis/handwringng/celebratory hangover. So by the time I turned attention to hoops, Navy usually had a sub-.500 record from nonconference games and lacrosse was dipping its toes into the frigid outdoors for preseason workouts.

It’s time to be reintroduced to Navy basketball and the excellent Pete Medhurst on the radio play-by-play.

3. The streak that was

How great was that eight-year bowl streak? The long drive against New Mexico. Slotback Frank Divis’s passes against New Mexico. Reggie Campbell’s touchdowns against Colorado State. The Navy defense going head-to-head against Matt Ryan of Boston College. The Navy offense going head-to-head against BJ Raji of Boston College. The successful onside kick in the final minute against Utah. For a D.C. native like myself, even the bowl game at RFK Stadium was enormous fun. The crushing win over Missouri.

And I still haven’t forgiven Mike Leach for the cheap touchdown celebration Texas Tech did in the fourth quarter of the 2003 bowl game. (What ever happened to Leach? Oh, wait a minute…)

So the bowl streak is over. And the CIC trophy streak. Neither was going to last forever! One streak that will resume next year is the streak of our enjoyment of Navy football continues. Maybe this dip will make all of us a little more hungry, a little more focused.

“Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare,” Anton Chekov wrote, “and look forward to the time when we may pick the fruit.”

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