After a three-week hiatus, it's Army-Navy show time at 2:35 p.m. tomorrow in Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.
If ever a football game between these two schools could be considered a toss-up, this one is it. Both teams are 5-5 and looking for a winning season. In addition, the series between the academies is practically deadlocked, with Navy holding a slight 42-41 advantage with seven ties. It should be another classic.
In recalling their records to date, it appears that Army has played the tougher schedule , having met seven Division I teams, defeating Vanderbilt (42-38) and Rutgers (35-31), and losing to Syracuse (26-14), Duke (17-16), Boston College (41-20), Wake Forest (52-14) and Air Force (15-13). Holy Cross, Lafayette, and VMI also fell to the Cadets.
However, observers could rightly judge that the Mids seemed to have played two different seasons. After beating a nationally ranked Division I-A school at Akron (17-13) and having a miserable homecoming loss to James Madison (16-7), a fired-up, emotional game was played against then-No. 1 Notre Dame, with the Mids scoring more points than any other team on the Irish schedule, but losing 52-31.
Navy was a different football team after that one, going on to defeat Toledo and Delaware in inspirational clashes.
Very little can be determined by the comparative scores against mutual opponents. Boston College beat Navy, 28-17, and Army, 41-20. Air Force beat Navy, 24-7, and Army, 15-3.
In any event, comparative scores against mutual opponents are no indication of things to come when these two meet on the gridiron. The fact is that both teams come on strong in the latter half of their seasons and both came into this game as teams to be reckoned with.
In so many of the Middie games this year they were outweighed in key offensive and defensive positions, many times by 20 to 40 pounds per man.
Not so tomorrow.
Comparative weights in these spots are almost identical. Navy's interior offensive linemen will average 256 pounds per man with junior tackle Mike Davis the heaviest at 279. The Cadets will average 255 pounds with junior guard Steve Chalault the heaviest at 284.
On defense, sophomore Robert Kuberski is at tackle for the Mids at 271 in their three-man interior set that averages 246 pounds per man. The parity continues in the four linebacker spots with Navy averaging 214 pounds per man and the Cadets starting at 216 pounds.
So, obviously, there is little difference between the two teams in size, a welcome change to both squads.
There is an all-time school record-breaker in each backfield, which will add to spectator and media interest.
Navy senior quarterback Alton Grizzard is the school's all-time career total offense leader with 5,491 yards. He also holds school records for rushing by a quarterback in a game (225 against Penn in 1987), in a season (633 in 1988), and in a career (2,156 from 1987-1990). His favorite pass receivers are junior split end B. J. Mason, senior tight end Dave Berghult and flanker Jerry Dawson.
Army's senior halfback Mike Mayweather at 185 pounds is West Point's all-time leader in rushing, passing the legendary Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard from their national championship team in the early '40s. Herein lies a very special story.
Mayweather was a young student who excelled academically in the public schools of a tough St. Louis neighborhood. He was granted an academic scholarship at prestigious St. Louis Country Day College preparatory school, a football power among prep schools in the Midwest. His all-state performance there and his academic record led to a West Point appointment.
He has been a terror to opponents the past four years and has achieved academic success in the pressured environment at Army.
Army also boasts an outstanding runner-passer in junior quarterback William McMillen, who guided the Cadets' wishbone offense to the big upset of Southeastern Conference Vanderbilt two weeks ago.
Navy also has two slashing rushers in senior Jason Pace at tailback and sophomore fullback Kwame Moultrie. Moultrie will be spelled by a Navy star of the future in freshman fullback Brad Stramansk, who has come into his own the latter half of the season.
If it finally comes down to field-goal kicking again this year, Navy will have the edge with senior Frank Schenk, who beat Army last year in the last minute of play, and who keeps booming those extra points and field goals successfully in almost automatic fashion.
Army will have an additional incentive, as if one was needed, in the fact that its successful coach, Jim Young, will be coaching his final Army game.
In eight years at West Point, his record stands at 50-39-1. In 17 years of college head coaching, his winning record is 119-71-12. He is 4-3 against Navy. Young is retiring this year to work in the Performance Enhancement program of the Army.
Navy coach George Chaump is facing the Cadets for the first time, having an overall career head coaching record of 62-37-2 in nine years.
Reference also should be made to an outstanding Navy senior who will be facing Army for the last time.
Middle guard Andy Kirkland has had a brilliant career at Navy, performing especially well against nationally ranked opponents such as Virginia and Notre Dame. The Sporting News has rated him No. 10 among nose guards in the entire nation, and he has been selected on the first-team All-East 11 this season. His leadership certainly will be felt in the middle of the mayhem tomorrow.
And so the 91st Army-Navy classic will be played tomorrow in front of a sold-out stadium, national TV (CBS), all the ships at sea, military installations around the world, and as much as possible to our men and women in the Persian Gulf.
The corps of Cadets will march on at 12:05 p.m., followed by the brigade of Midshipmen at 12:35 p.m. The game is considered by many a national treasure and is certainly Americana at its best.
A final column on Navy football will appear here next Friday as the season is reviewed and prospects for the future examined.
Earl Schubert, a free-lance writer, is a Baltimore native who lives in Annapolis. A former football coach, he was a secondary school administrator in Missouri and Montgomery County and worked for 17 years as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Education. His "Navy Blue and Gold" column appears every Friday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.