It all began for Navy back in 1879, when the Midshipmen played to a scoreless tie against the Baltimore Athletic Club in their first football game.
Some 112 years later, the Midshipmen will be playing their 1,000th game, today at 1:30, when they play host to Air Force at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The game will make Navy just the eighth team in college football history to play 1,000 games.
Through the years, Navy has won a national championship (1926), played in eight bowl games and provided two Heisman Trophy winners. But those represented the glory days of Navy football. More recently, the Midshipmen haven't had a winning season since 1982 and are off to an 0-4 start this year.
Going into today, Navy has recorded wins in its 500th, 600th, 700th, 800th and 900th games. But with the exception of one season, Navy had winning records in each of those 100th-game years. The only one of those seasons in which the Midshipmen finished with a losing record was 1973 -- they defeated Air Force, 42-6, that year for their 800th win.
Chances are that 100th-game streak will end this afternoon; Air Force (5-1) has won nine straight over Navy. The Falcons, playing in the wide-open offensive style common in the Western Athletic Conference, are averaging 337 rushing yards (third in the nation) and 30.3 points.
Air Force can attribute its high-scoring offense to Fisher DeBerry, who brought the wishbone to Colorado Springs when he became head coach in 1984. His record at Air Force is 60-31-1, including five bowl appearances in seven years.
DeBerry has coached some exceptional option quarterbacks at Air Force, including Dee Dowis, who amassed a school record 6,482 yards in total offense from 1986 to 1989. But DeBerry likes the overall talent of this year's offense, run by senior Rob Perez.
"We're better -- we have a little better spacing and balance in our offense," DeBerry said. "We've been able to turn the corner rather well. We've got a couple of guys that can run pretty good."
In six games, Air Force has amassed 2,575 yards in total offense, more than double the 1,183 recorded by Navy. Air Force has accomplished that in two more games, but still has a huge advantage over Navy in average yards per game (428 to 296).
Good news for Navy will be the return of sophomore fullback Brad Stramanak, the team's leading scorer who missed the Bowling Green game with a pulled hamstring. But tailback Billy James (11 carries, 70 yards, one touchdown vs. Bowling Green) pulled a muscle over his right knee during practice last week and is doubtful.
NOTES: The 0-4 start is the poorest start for George Chaump in his 10 years as a college coach. His worst record was 4-6 in 1982. . . . A few standing-room tickets will be on sale this afternoon. . . . Because of expected heavy traffic going to the football game and the Sailboat Show in Annapolis, police urge motorists to allow extra traveling time.
On the way to 1,000
Navy will play its 1,000th game when it plays host to Air Force today. Here is what the Midshipmen have done in each 100th game in the past:
Game 100 -- Oct. 28, 1899 -- Lafayette 5, Navy 0.
Game 200 -- Oct. 31, 1908 -- Carlisle 16, Navy 6.
Game 300 -- Oct. 23, 1920 -- Princeton 14, Navy 0.
Game 400 -- Nov. 21, 1931 -- Southern Methodist 13, Navy 6.
Game 500 -- Nov. 7, 1942 -- Navy 7, Pennsylvania 0.
Game 600 -- Nov. 14, 1953 -- Navy 14, Columbia 6.
Game 700 -- Dec. 7, 1963 -- Navy 21, Army 15.
Game 800 -- Oct. 20, 1973 -- Navy 42, Air Force 6.
Game 900 -- Oct. 2, 1982 -- Navy 27, Duke 21.