Army-Navy: Happy end to sad year? Coaches look for win to make season


PHILADELPHIA -- On a day when a nation will pay tribute to the events 50 years ago that drew the United States into World War II, two of its service academies will continue one of the biggest rivalries in the history of college sports.

It's the 92nd meeting of Army and Navy, which will play to a sold-out crowd of 66,592 this afternoon at Veterans Stadium. Unlike last year, when each team was playing for a winning record, Army (4-6) and Navy (0-10) will be playing this one strictly for pride.

nTC "Emotionally, I have a lot more feeling for this game than any other big game in my coaching career," said Navy coach George Chaump, who experienced his first Army-Navy game last year. "You play it like a national championship. For what it represents, it might be the biggest rivalry in college football."

And, if the past is any indication, it should be a close contest. Each academy has 42 wins, with seven ties.

Both enter the game on the verge of ending a season of disappointment. For Army, it's the disappointment of a losing season after three straight winning seasons.

"It's been a tough season," said Army coach Bob Sutton, making his debut in the big game. "We let some games slip out of our hands, and we're disappointed. But it's imperative to finish as a winning organization -- it's crucial."

Navy's disappointment is getting off to the worst start in school history, a shock after the promise of last season's 5-6 record.

"I never dreamed we would be in this position," said Chaump. "We hope to do better than last year [a 30-20 Army win]. Things being the way they are, this is probably the biggest game of my life. There's an awful lot riding on it."

That said, look for Chaump to come out with a wide-open offense for a unit that spent a lot of the year stumbling. Plebe quarterback Jim Kubiak has had success throwing, and sophomore quarterback Jason Van Matre has been impressive running. Chaump has indicated he may use both in the same quarter.

"That's a tough position, because we're not sure what they'll do," Sutton said. "We have to prepare for both styles. We're definitely concerned."

The biggest challenge will be for the Navy defense, which has allowed a lot of individuals to experience stardom for a day. Delaware's Bill Vergantino (20 of 26 for 239 yards and two touchdowns), William & Mary's Robert Green (181 yards rushing, two touchdowns) and Ball State's Corey Croom (190 yards rushing, three touchdowns) have enjoyed big days against the Midshipmen.

"We seem to bring out the best in other teams, because they always come out with the big plays," Chaump said. "We'll hold up with them statistically, and then 'whack.' "

Now, Navy, whose defense ranks 103rd out of 106 Division I-A teams against the rush, will attempt to stop an Army rushing offense that is third in the nation (304 yards per game). There's no question what Army will do -- the Cadets have averaged just 5.2 passes and the 34.3 passing yards per game ranks last among I-A schools.

The time leading up to the game (three weeks for Army, two for Navy) has allowed both to enter the game fairly healthy. Army will be without the star of last year's game, quarterback Willie McMillian (career-high 195 yards rushing against Navy), who suffered torn ligaments in his right knee.

"It's kind of tough, because when you're a senior you always look forward to your last Army-Navy game," McMillian said. "I'm going to miss the hitting, and getting hit. But just being on the sideline will be good enough for me."

And it will be a tremendous opportunity for Chaump, who never (( has lost like this on any level.

"They tell me it's a one-game season, and this time I'm going to really believe that," Chaump said. "At times like this, I'm happy that's the case."

Navy (0-10) vs. Army (4-6)


Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, 1:30 p.m.

Television: Channel 13, 7

Radio: WERQ (1010 AM), WNAV (1430 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

Series record: Tied, 42-42-7

Outlook: Army has won 4 of the past 5, including last year's 30-20 victory. In that game, QB Willie McMillian (injured this year) had the game of his career, with 195 yards rushing. Army has lost 3 of its past 4, with the only win on Nov. 16 vs. Akron, 19-0. The Cadets, who use the wishbone, are third in the nation in rushing (304 yards per game), but last among the 106 I-A teams in passing (34.3 yards per game). Although Army's scoring is down by a little more than 7 points a game from a year ago, the option may pose problems to a Navy defense that has been vulnerable to the big play all season (allowing 232 rushing yards a game, last among I-A teams). For the Midshipmen, this is the final chance to avoid finishing the season without a win. It's doubtful that an 0-10 team has appeared on national television, and the Midshipmen will be looking to avoid embarrassment before millions of viewers. Navy will have to pick up in a lot of areas: The pass efficiency defense ranks 106th (last) nationally, the total defense 93rd, the scoring defense 92nd. Look for some offensive surprises, which may include a quarterback change with each series. Though Navy hasn't been a safe pick all season, look for an effort that will allow the team to redeem itself.

The line: Army by 10

The Sun's pick: Navy, 23-17.

Army-Navy rosters


Offense 16 James Kubiak .. QB

Jason Van Matre TB*

46 Brad Stramanak .FB

59 Max Lee .. .. ..LT

65 Carl Voss .. .. LG

67 Steve Palmer .. .C

79 Michael Davis ..RG

68 Blair Sokol .. .RT

87 Kevin Hickman ..TE

89 Tom Pritchard ..WR

9 B.J. Mason .. .. WR

* -- May start at QB; Starting TB would be Vinnie Smith

Defense 71 Chris Alexander LT

Robert Goodson .NG

78 Ches Snider .. .RT

62 David Shaw .. ..LB

90 Rob Kuberski .. LB

55 Byron Ogden .. .LB

40 Mark Ellis .. ..LB

23 Rodney Purifoy .CB

33 Chris Hart .. ..CB

22 Chris Cordero ..SS

26 Chad Chatlos .. FS


Offense 18 Myreon Williams QB

Arlen Smith .. .HB

31 Edrian Oliver ..HB

42 Callian Thomas .FB

76 Mark Escobedo ..LT

69 Steve Chaloult .LG

63 Aaron Scott .. ..C

66 John Pirog .. ..RG

74 Dan Menendez .. RT

90 Mark Dawkins .. TE

89 Monte Tomasino .SE

Defense 99 Lance Chambers .LT

Kevin Walker .. NG

73 Dan Davis .. .. RT

93 Jason Miller .. LB

87 Aaron Foglesong LB

57 Trey Gilmore .. LB

53 Kevin Czarnecki LB

39 Duncan Johnson .CB

8 Chuck Gibbs .. ..CB

11 Kyle Peavler .. SS

4 Mike McElrath .. FS

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