Army hopes to do something that has not been done since 2001. Navy has beaten Army ten straight times in the final game of college football’s regular season, and up until last year it was not even close.
Navy has recorded nine double-digit victories against Army during the ten-game winning streak, with last year being the closest Army has gotten to their sea-bound rivals on the scoreboard. Navy has outscored Army by a combined score of 349-112 during the decade of agony for Army.
So, is this the year Army can buck the trend?
“The thing to take away from this is to never feel like this next year,” senior linebacker Nate Combs said following last year’s loss to Navy. “I’m tired of this feeling. I know the seniors would say the same thing. Capitalizing next year would not only help us, but also the other guys who have lost to Navy too.”
Combs will be a captain for this week’s Army Navy Game, along with Army’s leading rusher and quarterback Trent Steelman and defensive end Jarrett Mackey. The sentiment of Combs is shared by his teammates and his coach, Rich Ellerson.
“It’s a constant irritant to all of us,” Ellerson said this week during a joint press conference for the game. “Having said that, you use some of that where you can, but then it starts to get in the way. You put it on the shelf and focus on trying to win a football game. What happened 20 years ago or 10 years ago or last year doesn’t follow you into the stadium.
“We can leverage some of that history in our preparation, both emotionally and physically, but once you get to the game, you better play the game.”
The stakes will be even higher than normal for this traditional rivalry game like no other. The winner will be awarded the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, awarded to the winner of the head-to-head-to-head match-ups between Army, Navy and Air Force. Army and Navy each defeated the third military academy this season, meaning it will be on the line Saturday. Navy is looking to win the trophy for the first time since 2009, and Army is looking for their first trophy since 1996.
“It would put an exclamation point on what we wanted to do,” Mackey said this week. “I came into the prep school with Trent [Steelman] and we beat Navy there, and said that we’re going to go up to West Point and do it there too. Now that it’s our senior year, it’s our last chance to do it. We are trying to keep our goals. We said we wanted to bring the CIC back, we wanted to beat Navy and we wanted to go to a bowl game. We got a bowl game our sophomore year, and now it’s time to get our next two checklists for our senior class and the team and for our graduates and the Academy.”
Having the trophy on the line gives everyone a little something more to play for, but the Army players feel that ending the season against Navy with a win is ultimately the most important.
“We don’t think about that as a team, and that’s not what we ever strive for, but it is,” Steelman said. “They say that if you go 2-9 and win the CIC Trophy that you’ve had a good season. We have wanted a lot of things to go differently this season, and they haven’t for one reason or another. So, we have this opportunity in front of us, and it’s there for the taking.”
Kevin is a national college football writer for rootshed.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on Twitter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.