Bigger stakes for Navy, Army Both teams seek a winning season


In the beginning, there were maybe 1,000 people who lined the southeast corner of the parade grounds at West Point to witness the first football game between Army and Navy. Playing on a cold, cloudy day on Nov. 29, 1890, Navy beat Army, 24-0. And thus was born college football's most spirited rivalry.

Today, they'll play the game before more than 70,000 people at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. And millions more will watch the nationally televised contest. This will be the 91st meeting between the two academies, which have played annually since 1930 after a two-year layoff. Navy leads the series, 42-41, with seven ties.

"Everyone puts everything they have into this game," said Army running back Mike Mayweather. "There are no tests and no quizzes all week before the game. The only emphasis is getting pumped up for Navy."

The teams will enter with identical records for the first time since 1983, when they were 2-8. This time, both are 5-5 and will be playing with a lot more incentive.

For Navy, it's an opportunity for its first winning season since 1982.

"That's highly important -- the biggest thing about the game is Navy hasn't had a winning season in a long time," said first-year Navy coach George Chaump. "For our seniors, it's their last game. We'd like nothing more than for them to leave as members of a winning team."

And for Army, the incentive is to send retiring coach Jim Young out with a winning record.

"The seniors have talked about it, and we want to make sure he goes out a winner," Mayweather said. "We have nothing but the utmost respect for the man. And we'll do everything we can to win for him."

The Cadets are six-point favorites, and were heavily favored last year, when Army and Navy entered the game with 5-5 and 2-8 records, respectively. But Navy's Frank Schenk joined the likes of Napoleon McCallum, Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino as heroes in the rivalry when he kicked a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to give Navy a 19-17 win at Giants Stadium.

"The Monday morning after that game when I got back, it was total chaos," Schenk, now a senior, said of the celebrations. "Obviously, it makes you feel good. But I've tried hard to forget it -- that's in the past. I have to prepare for this game."

And Navy will have to prepare for Mayweather, an All-America halfback who holds the all-time service academy rushing record with 4,212 yards (McCallum is second with 4,179). The Midshipmen did a good job holding Mayweather in check last year (26 rushes, 84 yards) and will have to do the same to have any shot at winning.

"I'm surprised at his size. He's not big, but he's powerful," said Chaump of Mayweather, who is 5 feet 8 and 185 pounds. "He makes yards on his own. He'll be stopped dead, and, all of a sudden, he'll just keep on going."

Mayweather won't be the only rusher Navy has to watch out for in Army's wishbone offense. Quarterback Willie McMillian has rushed for 705 yards, and halfback Calvin Cass (687 yards last season and both touchdowns against Navy) returns after missing six games this year with injuries.

"They're one of the best running teams in the country," Chaump said of the Cadets, who rank third nationally in rushing. "The Army wishbone is vastly different from the Air Force wishbone. Army is more power than finesse."

With three weeks off since their last games, both teams will be relatively healthy.

"It's almost like a bowl situation with the wait," Young said. "I think it's too much time, but it can be helpful when you get your injuries healed up."

Young, who is 4-3 against Navy, said he hasn't had time to dwell on his last game.

"I'm not really focusing on that," Young said. "I'm just thinking about winning. It's two competitively matched teams going into a great traditional contest."

Chaump also has focused on preparing his team, and not on the pageantry that surrounds what will be his first Army-Navy contest.

"You're so caught up in preparations, you don't have times to get into the emotions," Chaump said. "In terms of what we're doing, it's pretty much the same, only more intense.

"As far as my first game, people don't care if it's Chaump's first or Young's last," Chaump said. "We just want to end up with a win."

Game at a glance

Who: Navy (5-5) vs. Army (5-5)

Where: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

When: Today, 2:35 p.m.

TV: Channels 11, 9

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM), WLIF (1300 AM)

Series: Navy leads, 42-41-7.

The line: Army by 6

Today's game

Army (5-5) vs. Navy (5-5) Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, 2:35 p.m.

Series: Navy leads, 42-41-7

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM), WLIF (1300 AM)

TV: Channels 11, 9

Outlook: This is the 100th anniversary and the 91st meeting between the two service academies. It's the first time both teams have come in needing a victory for a winning season. Last year's game at Giants Stadium, which featured five lead changes, was won by Navy, 19-17, on a 32-yard field goal by Frank Schenk with 11 seconds left. The Midshipmen had lost four straight entering that game. Navy is a better team, but the offense sometimes shows its inexperience. Navy had to come from behind in the final minute in its last two wins over Toledo and Delaware. Alton Grizzard has completed 32 of 54 passes in the last three games, while throwing just 1 INT (he has 12 for the season). The offense will have to hold its own for Navy to have a chance. Army had to come from behind in its last game, against Vanderbilt, and needed a 9-yard run by QB Willie McMillian with 1:03 to play to pull out the 42-38 win. A wishbone team, Army is led by HB Mike Mayweather, who has rushed for 1,251 yards this season. He leads an offense that ranks third nationally in rushing (328 yards per game). In last year's game, Navy limited Mayweather to 84 rushing yards, and the team to 208. The Midshipmen will have to duplicate that effort if they want to achieve their goal of the first winning season since 1982.

The line: Army by 6

The Sun's pick: Navy 24, Army 20.

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