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Army-Navy: America's Game is the Greatest

A year ago I was truly fortunate to obtain a media pass for the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. Writing basketball for a good three decades helped as I knew the media relations group at the US Military Academy. Having a relative (hello John) and well connected Army graduate did not hurt either.

At any rate, I can simply say the Army-Navy game is a fabulous spectacle that every football fan should take in live at least once in their lifetime. The background, color, excitement and the game itself are fantastic. Post game both teams standing for both alma maters is truly a special moment to behold.

After the jump is a statistical breakdown, written in the 'Link' pressbox following last year's game. It finally is getting the 'light of day'. Past games in this storied series however, never get old. Will not be making this year's game in mperson due to local basketball committments. Will be following the progress of this great rivalry game.

Army-Navy. A classic. Pre-game on the Link field last year, a Navy cheerleader summed up the intense rivalry best saying, "we may be bieer rivals on game day but in the end we are members of the same team."

Very well put indeed.

PHILADELPHIA, PA. There were a number of ‘firsts' in the latest edition of this storied meeting. One recent constant remained. The result as Navy defeated Army at Lincoln Financial field.

In the 110 year history of this classic matchup there was never a pass completion this long. Ricky Dobbs connected on a 77 yard touchdown strike with slot back John Howell to give Navy a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter. For Howell, a JV MVP last season who didn't play a down of varsity ball, it was his second career catch. Besides the added storyline, Howell's getting behind two defenders left Army on their heels.

Momentum is huge. No other way to put it. Army was driving very deep in the red zone. Just under two minutes remained in the half and the Cadets were primed to cut into the 17-7 deficit. On a routine rushing play Navy's Wyatt Middleton stripped the Army ball carrier at the two and took off for the opposite end zone. Ninety eight yards later Middleton was in the end zone, the longest fumble returned for a touchdown in school history and following the extra point it was 24-7 Navy. The momentum and life seemed to be drawn out of Army.

Army opened up the third quarter with a field goal producing drive. Navy answered with a patented eat the clock 9 minute three second drive culminating in a Gee Gee Greene 25 yard touchdown run. By time Greene's run hit pay dirt it was early fourth quarter. Army refused to lay down. The cadets scored on a Steelman-Brown strike and later got the ball deep in Navy territory but could not take advantage.

Very clearly, the fumble was the momentum changer, the difference maker of the contest. Steelman, army's fine sophomore quarterback was the lone who lost the ball calling it ,"a heartbreaking play especially since I value the ball and do not fumble." Navy's senior tackle Jeff Battipaglia simply called it, "the greatest defensive turnover for a touchdown I've ever seen."

Army coach Rich Ellison, disappointed had some encouragement. Ellison was impressed with the Cadets refusal to give up or lose poise. "We compete," he said, "now we just have to compete for 60 full minutes." Ellison was encouraged by the return after an injury of Malcolm Brown, with 3 receptions for 59 yards and 2 Tds. A positive heading into bowl action.

Army entered the game with a +11 turnover margin while Navy was a +10. In the first half alone the Cadets lost two fumbles while Navy for the first time all season lost three fumbles in a single game. All before halftime.

The final count saw both clubs with 3 turnovers each. "Turnovers got us back in it," Ellison said, ‘and they closed the door on us."

Points per play (PPP). A metric yours truly is studying, in the rawest sense divides points by the number of plays. Entering the game Navy was .465 while Army checked in at .426. In a wild, numbers wise, second quarter, Navy ran 6 plays. They scored 14 points for a PPP of 2.33. For the game :

Plays

PPP

Navy

49

.633

Army

74

.230

Navy had thee sacks, Army one. The latter stat is vital because as Ellison noted, against an option you have to apply pressure on passers or you will have matchup difficulties in the secondary. Which Ricky Dobbs (6-11, 186 yds 2 Tds) took full advantage of.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo made little emphasis of the nine game win streak over the Cadets. ""There have been a lot of players and a lot of people involved with it," he said of the streak. "We just try to take it one game at a time. We were just playing this game and not any games prior."

That proved to be enough for victorious Navy.

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