And despite the difference in the records the past few years, Army has been steadily closing the gap in this game since Navy won 37-3 in Paul Johnson's last season in 2007 and 34-0 in Niumatalolo's first in 2008.

"We were arguably the better team last year, but we came up short because of some mistakes and mental errors on our part," Kough said. "It's going to be a fight. It comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes and who comes prepared."

Niumatalolo has been on the losing end in this game, in three of four years as an assistant from 1995 through 1998 under Charlie Weatherbie as well as the first season under Johnson in 2001. The Midshipmen won the next year, finishing a 2-10 season with a 58-12 win over Army at Giants Stadium, to start the current streak.

"It must be tough to lose to your rival, so I know they're going to come to battle and give everything they've got. That's who they are," Niumatalolo said. "West Point peeople are tough people. Coach Ellerson is a tough sucker, and I know those players are tough kids. I know they're not going to look at the record, and they're to come ready to go."

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Army (3-8) vs. Navy (7-4)

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Site: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia


Radio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM

Series: Navy leads, 57-49-7

Last meeting: Navy won, 17-13, in Philadelphia on Dec. 8, 2012

Navy offense vs. Army defense: The Black Knights did a good job keeping Keenan Reynolds in check until the fourth quarter of last year's game, but Reynolds comes into this year's game at another level and with a deep and now healthy group of fullbacks and slotsbacks to support him. Reynolds needs just one touchdown to tie the Football Bowl Subdivision single-season record of 27 rushing touchdowns shared by former Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs and former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. His supporting cast includes fullback Noah Copeland, who rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown last year against Army and had a breakout 153-yard rushing performance this season at Toledo before getting hurt the next week against Pittsburgh. Copeland will share the load at fullback with sophomore Chris Swain, who had a season-high 85 yards and a touchdown at Notre Dame before also getting injured. Junior Quinton Singleton, who took over in their absence, rushed for 77 yards at Notre Dame and 93 yards and a touchdown against Hawaii. The revolving door of slotbacks — which includes seniors Darius Staten and Marcus Thomas, junior Geoffrey Whiteside and sophomores Demond Brown and DeBrandon Sanders — has combined for nearly 1,400 yards and nine TDs. But it is Reynolds whom Army will undoubtedly focus its effort on after watching him rush for 240 yards and seven touchdowns against San Jose State. Given how the Black Knights often play press coverage, it could also help Reynolds throw for more than the 130 yards he did a year ago (on 10 of 17 passsing), either looking to one of his slotbacks out of the backfield or to dependable senior wide receiver Casey Bolena (13 catches for 164 yards).

Navy defense vs. Army offense: The Midshipmen have been susceptible to giving up huge chunks of yardage and a fair share of points against teams that throw the ball, but the Black Knights rank 123rd in passing (80.1 yards per game), last among FBS teams but right behind Navy. Army does lead the country in rushing (323.6), two spots ahead of the Midshipmen. Junior Terry Baggett has done a nice job replacing Raymond Maples, who missed most of the season because of a groin injury. Baggett leads the Black Knights with 1,072 yards and eight TDs. Senior fullback Larry Dixon, whose late fumble a year ago helped the Midshipmen preserve their 11th straight win in the rivalry, was Army's second-leading rusher this year but suffered a season-ending arm injury in a Nov. 9 loss at Western Kentucky. Junior quarterback Angel Santiago has been intercepted just once, but he has contributed to the Black Knights losing 11 of their 18 fumbles (compared to Navy losing four of 11). Though Navy is ranked 87th in rushing defense (188.8 yards allowed per game), the Midshipmen are 28th in red zone defense. While Navy doesn't have a dominant defensive player, the Midshipmen have a solid group of playmakers led by senior linebacker Cody Peterson, whose 124 tackles have him ranked fourth in the country in tackles per game (11.3). For Army to hang in there, the Black Knights have to control the ball, something they have done well (12th overall in time of possession).

Don Markus