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America's Game: Army Vs. Navy 2019


On Saturday, December 14, 2019, the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen will face off on the gridiron for the 120th time. There are many premier matchups in college football, but nothing outshines the historic rivalry between Army and Navy. Army football head coach Jeff Monken has led the Black Knights in five of these heavyweight bouts and describes the matchup as “the greatest rivalry in sports.” His counterpart at Navy, Ken Niumatalolo, is also a veteran of this fierce competition and adds, “this rivalry touches our whole country.” When they take the field, the cadets of the United States Military Academy and the Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy will dedicate every ounce of their strength to emerging victorious, but once the battle on the football field is settled, both soldiers and sailors alike will stand together, link arms, and sing each other’s alma maters. As they begin the next chapter of their lives, all of them will go forward as one team to defend our nation.

Since December 2016, Army has beaten Navy three seasons in a row. As coach Monken and his players are well aware, sinking Navy for a fourth straight season will not be an easy task. “Each year I’ve been here at Army,” said Monken, “it’s been a one score game and we’ve either been fighting to try to win the game by getting a score at the end or” trying to stop the Midshipmen from marching down the field for a game winning drive. Entering this contest with a 5-7 record, the Black Knights have been hampered by injuries this season and have fallen short in several close games, but as Army senior linebacker Cole Christiansen puts it, “We are a resilient group and a team that never stops pushing forward.” The team captain also added, “We’re going to come out and throw the whole kitchen sink at Navy, because that’s all we’ve got left.”

Interview with Army football head coach Jeff Monken.

From December 2002 to December 2015, Navy triumphed over Army in 14 consecutive matchups. In the 117th meeting between the two storied rivals in 2016, Army finally snapped that impressive streak. “We came into a program that was on a 14-game winning streak,” said navy senior quarterback Malcom Perry. “Being the first group to lose that game, that builds up a lot inside of you.” Although Navy has now lost three straight games to the Black Knights, the Midshipmen look well positioned to possibly take back the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy this season. After finishing last year with a 3-10 record, Navy has bounced back in 2019. Sitting at 9-2 and currently ranked 23rd in the College Football Playoff rankings, Coach Niumatlolo has good reason to be proud of his players: “The way they’ve improved and the amount they’ve improved has been pretty remarkable.” Looking forward to a chance at redemption, Perry said, “Beating our rival, just being the last game, I think urgency might fit here, but more so it’s just a burning desire.”

The first meeting between Army and Navy took place on November 29, 1890 on "The Plain" at West Point, a battle in which the Midshipmen emerged triumphant over Army's newly established football team, 24-0. From that initial clash on the gridiron to the present-day, the intensity of the rivalry between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen has never wavered. How fierce is this rivalry you might ask? So strong that an alleged incident between an Army general and a Navy admiral nearly led to a duel after Navy's victory in the 1893 game, which subsequently resulted in the matchup being halted from 1894 to 1898. While we have largely moved past the days of settling disputes by pistol duel, there will still be plenty of sparks in the air when the two sides meet on the field for the 120th time. As Christiansen describes what the rivalry feels like each time he sets foot on the field, “It’s every emotion a human being can feel at once, all at one time, multiplied by one hundred.”

Interview with Army senior linebacker Cole Christiansen.

You would be hard pressed to find any harder working student athletes in the country than those at our nation’s military academies. At places like West Point and Annapolis, the responsibilities of cadets and Midshipmen extend far beyond the classroom and the realm of athletic competition. “At every other school in America, the hardest part of any football player’s day is football practice,” said former Air Force football assistant Fred Goldsmith. “At the military academies, the easiest part of a football player’s day is football practice.” Football is the game that these men love to play, but their primary purpose is far greater. These individuals are entrusted to become the future military leaders of our nation. This is no easy task, requiring a total commitment of mind, body, and spirit.

Whether a player for Army or for Navy, both sides face similar pressures and challenges. Because of this, they understand one another in a way that many outsiders can’t comprehend. It is why author John Feinstein writes, “(A)s much as the players want to beat each other, as important as it is at both schools to win that football game, there is a bond between the players and their schools like no bond between any other rivals in sports.”

The captains of Army and Navy watch as President Harry Truman performs the pregame coin toss for the 51st meeting between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen on December 2, 1950. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

Army-Navy is truly America’s game. The latest chapter in the rivalry kicks off at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 3:00 (ET) on Saturday, December 14, 2019. It will be the 89th battle between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen waged in Philadelphia. Navy currently leads the all time series with 60 wins, Army is right behind with 52 victories, and there have been seven ties between the two sides.

Sources

A Civil War: Army Vs. Navy - A Year Inside College Football's Purest Rivalry by John Feinstein

Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau: Army-Navy Rivalry by the Numbers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Army's seniors look to sink Navy for a fourth straight year in academies' football rivalry.

U.S. Army: The Army-Navy Game: 13 Historical Facts you probably don't know.

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