Throw away past season records. Forget who scored what and in what quarter of a game. It's Army-Navy again tomorrow for the 91st time with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff in Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium.
With theseries tied at 42 wins, bragging rights will go to the winner at least for another year. Football polls will be put aside for a few hoursas people watch all around the world, and a wager or two will be made on many a military or naval post. This game is, as always, a true classic that neither team can afford to lose -- especially this year.
This Dec. 7 date is, quite naturally, a very special one to most Americans and particularly to the two academies. West Point is the host this year, and ceremonies befitting the significance of the date have been intricately planned.
Pre-game festivities will include parachute landings with the game ball by Army's "Golden Knights" and the Navy "Leap Frog" jump team at 1:26 p.m., and the "exchange of prisoners" (Mids studying at West Point and Cadets at Annapolis) with eachreturning to their own cheering sections.
An elaborate and movinghalftime ceremony titled "The nation pulls together in time of conflict" will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attackand America's entrance into World War II. Pearl Harbor survivors will be honored. The veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Panama Canal and Desert Storm also will be introduced. A replica of the USS Arizonawill appear, and a Pearl Harbor survivor will place a wreath on its deck. Jeffrey Osborne will sing "God Bless America," and a message byPresident Bush will be transmitted from Hawaii.
As for the football game itself, all scouting notes have been thoroughly reviewed in both football offices, films have been looked at through blurry eyes late into the night the past two weeks, game strategy has been debatedover and over and a plan established.
In essence, it all adds up to two inspired squads of 18- to 23-year-olds who have committed themselves to an all-out effort. Football is considered by many to be theclosest thing to combat on the intercollegiate athletic scene, and this will seem like an explosion.
Army comes into the game with a 4-6 record, with possibly one outstanding game in beating Howard Schellenberger's Louisville Cardinals, 37-12. Wins against Colgate, Harvard and Akron were more or less expected. The 20-14 loss to Citadel wasa disappointment, but North Carolina, Rutgers, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Air Force were pretty good ballclubs.
Army's wishbone attack, led by senior quarterback Myron Williams with receivers Mark Dawkins and Monte Tomasino, is always a serious threat. Other than 1990All-East defensive lineman Lance Chambers and free safety Mike McElrath, the Cadets do not present a strong defensive alignment. New coach Bob Sutton has stayed with the wishbone offense that has proved so successful at West Point in recent years, culminating in three bowl appearances.
What Coach George Chaump's basic Mid offense will be is anyone's guess. It could be the straight wishbone, the winged-T with a wishbone flair and an unbalanced line, a straight winged-T, a straight T formation, or even his beloved Pro-Set.
The Mids have run each one well at times with freshman quarterback Jim Kubiak at the controls with good runners like Jason Van Matre, Brad Stramanak, Billy James and Duke Ingraham alternating in the backfield, and B.J. Mason,Rom Pritchard, Tony Gilless and Kevin Hickman making fine pass targets.
The interior offensive line is big and strong, featuring Max Lane, Carl Voss, Steve Palmer, Mike Davis and Blair Sokal.
Navy's serious concern is on defense when opponents take to the air. All-Eastselections Bob Kuberski, Mark Ellis, Byron Ogden and David Shaw forma legitimate Division I linebacker crew, but must improve as a unit with Rodney Purifoy and Chris Hart.
Together with an improved defensive line, the Mids could put it all together in this one. The desire and the spirit is certainly there. The Mids must learn to effectively adjust to their opponent's adjustments the second half, and the direction for some must come from the coaching staff.
Much has been written about some of the highlights of this historic Army-Navy series through the years. The five-year winning streaks by Navy from 1939 through 1943 and again from 1959 through 1963. And the Army streak from 1927 through 1933. Coach Wayne Hardin's uncanny spell over Army inthe early '60s, and Coach George Welsh's winning string of six out of seven in the mid '70s.
The titanic clashes with Army in 1943 andin 1944 in the Doc Blanchard/Glenn Davis years, when the two academies actually were playing for No. 1 in the nation. The Heisman winners, Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach, spectacular appearances in this game from 1958 to 1960, and 1962 to 1964, respectively.