Army not Navy's only big game, but it measures success of season

After that magnificent effort by the Navy football team last Saturday against the dangerous Rice Owls in one of the most bizarre games played in recent years, the Mids are eagerly looking forward to the Army battle in Philadelphia on Dec. 5.

And well they should after making a joke out of the predicted 24-point win by their Southwest Conference opponents. Rice was very happy to get out with a shaky 27-22 victory.


Now, on to The Game as it is known on all the ships at sea and every Army installation around the world.

It will be the 93rd meeting of two academies that began in 1890. After their second meeting in 1891 in Annapolis, a midshipman wrote in an academy publication that "the contest with West Point is the only important game of our seven-game season."


That's not quite true today, but it comes close.

At both schools, who wins this game decides the success or failure of the season. A coach's security has at times depended on his record in this game. Navy's George Sauer's 3-13-2 record in 1948 and 1949 was discouraging enough, but in addition, he couldn't beat Army.

The well-liked and capable Rip Miller was winless against the Cadets in three tries, 1931-1933, and was replaced by the Mids' Hall of Famer, Tom Hamilton, who managed a win in 1936.

On the other hand, former Mid quarterback George Welsh's squads defeated West Point seven straight years from 1973 to 1980 before a 3-3 tie in 1981. The only Navy blowout of Army occurred in 1973, 51-0. The only Army blowout of Navy happened in 1903, 40-5, in Coach Burr Chamberlain's only year at the helm.

In the academy's long and distinguished football history, 16 Mids were inducted in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

It is significant that each one ended his football career showcasing his achievements nationally.

An early selectee, Jack Dalton in 1911, finished his career by running over the Cadets and then kicking the field goal that won the game, 3-0.

Incidentally, in that game Mid lineman I. C. Sawell played the entire game with a broken rib and punctured lung. He only occasionally wore a helmet. But after all, it was the Army game.


Another inductee, Joseph M. Bellino, old No. 27 from Winchester, Mass., set a record for the Army-Navy Classic in 1959 by scoring three touchdowns in Navy's 43-12 victory.

proved to be a nemesis to Army the three years he played against them, including during the Mids' Orange Bowl year (1960), a season that also featured a win over Rose Bowl champion Washington.

And what old sailor who was present in the wind and rain in Franklin Field in Philadelphia in 1934 can forget inductee Slade Deville Cutter's field goal that beat Army, 3-0, as darkness fell over the field? During a brief timeout, the ball and Cutter's right shoe had to be wiped off.

Putting the ball into position to be kicked with his run to Army's 19-yard-line was fellow inductee Fred "Buzz" Bories, Navy's great All-American tailback. Sportswriter Grantland Rice named the Navy team that year the nation's "All-American football team."

Another Navy great inducted into the Hall of Fame who had his best days against Army was Roger Staubach in all three games from 1962-1964.

Fellow inductees Clyde "Smackover" Scott in 1944 and Anthony "Skip" Minisi in 1945 were spotlighted the two years that the


academies were playing for the No. 1 ranking in the nation.

To emphasize the significance of this game, one that stands out in comparison to the glory days and which is still looked on as to what a Navy football team is really made of, the 21-21 tie in 1948 with Army is instantly recalled.

The winless Mids, having been clobbered by California, Notre Dame, Michigan and Missouri, faced the undefeated and untied Cadets in a supposed mismatch.

Unsung heroes like Pete Williams, Scott Emerson, Roger Drew, Tom Parsons, Kit Carson, Reeves Baysinger and Dave Bannerman, along with a gritty crew of teammates stood up to the Black Knights and actually were knocking on the door at the 6-yard-line when the game ended.

Never was "Navy Blue and Gold" sung more proudly than on that late November day in 1948.

The match-up next week is more than a football game. Throw out the records, forget previous scores, it's the Army-Navy Classic and Americana at its best.