One for the Middies

The Baltimore Sun

Please forgive the irrepressible grins, the sunny outlook and the other outward signs of deep satisfaction displayed this week by fans of U.S. Naval Academy football. Navy's 46-44 triple-overtime victory over the Fighting Irish on Saturday in South Bend, Ind., was bound to have a lasting effect. Beating a rival once every 43 years will do that.

The Notre Dame-Navy match-up is one of the more lopsided annual events in college football. One fields a team of high school all-Americans, the other with future Navy and Marine Corps officers. Unless Roger Staubach is behind center taking snaps (as he was for Navy in 1963), the results are generally predictable.

But the combination of a solid Navy team with a potent offense and postseason ambitions opposed by a Notre Dame squad mired in a losing season of record-setting proportions helped turn the unthinkable into the wonderful - at least from the Midshipmen's perspective.

No doubt coach Paul Johnson will tell his players that this was just one victory and Navy needs more wins to get to another bowl game. And, of course, their fans will expect them to beat a certain military academy from the Hudson River Valley next month. No season would be complete without a win over West Point.

Nevertheless, this is a moment to savor. Even a Notre Dame fan has to admit it's nice to see an underdog come out on top once in a while. Navy still needs a 60-year winning streak to even its career record against the Irish. That's not likely, but at least it doesn't seem quite as improbable today.

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