PHILADELPHIA -- The craziness surrounding the 100th Army-Navy game can officially begin.
"You know at the academies there are a whole lot of rules you have to abide by," said Navy co-captain Jamie Doffermyre (Arundel). "But guys really get it leading up to this game. The worst in Annapolis goes to the Army cadets on exchange. They have to go around wearing Navy uniforms and aren't allowed to sleep."
"Things for this one game border on lunacy," added the Midshipmen's other co-captain, Terrence Anderson. "For this one event, the fans are more intense than any in the country. And the graduates coming back to re-live their games are unbelievable."
The lunacy got a little out of hand at last season's game when a railing at Veterans Stadium gave way after cadets were mugging for the national television cameras. A number were injured in their resultant tumbles to the ground.
Most officials steered clear of mentioning the incident at yesterday's Army-Navy kickoff luncheon at the Vet, but not Army co-captain Shaun Castillo.
"Hopefully, the stands won't fall this year," said Castillo while addressing the media. "I don't want to make light of it, but that delay [30 minutes] was kind of good for me because I needed to use the restroom real bad."
He still favors playing the game in Philadelphia because the city embraces all the hoopla. "One year in the Meadowlands, it was like people didn't even know there was an Army-Navy game and you have to take a cab to even get into the city," he said. "Here it's more cohesive."
The unorthodox traditions extend to West Point, where "it gets a little crazy now," said Castillo. "The Middies up there come out for formation with no clothes on because the plebes have stolen them."
Unlike Navy, which is still playing as an independent, Army has completed its second season as a member of Conference USA, and veteran coach Bob Sutton likes the affiliation despite a 3-9 league record.
"We'd like to be more successful, but this has played out to be really beneficial to us," said Sutton. "The league is only 4 years old, and four teams [of seven league members] are going to be in bowls. These are the types of teams we'd be playing, anyway."
The affiliation provides the Cadets with much more television exposure and bowl-game possibilities. And there is a residual effect -- league games take Army into areas where it must recruit.
"We're a national school, and this brings us a lot closer to major recruiting areas," said Sutton. "That's the sidebar to the whole deal. It was a great decision to join the league."
Ground game rules
As usual, the Midshipmen and Cadets will look like bookends on offense with their spread option attacks and heavy emphasis on rushing the football.
Navy became the No. 1 running team in the country last week (299.1 yards per game) after amassing a season-high 451 yards in the 48-41 loss in Hawaii. The Midshipmen have never led the nation in rushing.
Army, which led the category most of the season, slipped to third at 279.0 after being held to 237 ground yards by Houston.
The mirror images make defensive preparations considerably simpler for both sides, and, for Navy, a welcome change is coming. The last two Midshipmen opponents have combined to attempt 119 passes, completing 75 for 842 yards.
"I'm excited about seeing a running offense again," said Doffermyre. "I like playing against them a little better."
Philadelphia has played host to 75 of the 100 Army-Navy games, with New York City (including East Rutherford, N.J.) second with 14. The 101st renewal will be played next December in Baltimore at PSINet Stadium. Against common opponents, Navy lost to Air Force, 19-14, and Army lost, 28-0. The Midshipmen whipped Tulane, 45-21, in their final home game, while the Cadets lost to the Green Wave on the road, 48-28. Last season's game produced the most points in series history, with Army prevailing, 34-30, with a 15-point fourth period.