ANNAPOLIS -- It has been said for years that the regular season is meaningless as long as Navy beats Army in football, but don't try to sell that to members of this year's Navy team -- especially fullback Brad Stramanak.
"Not by any stretch of the imagination," said Stramanak, when asked whether a win over Army in tomorrow's 92nd meeting would salvage the 0-10 season. "It's a terrible feeling and a terrible record. This has been a disappointing season, and if someone says that one game can make a season, that just shows what type of competitor they are."
The realization to Stramanak and his teammates is that Navy has recorded the worst start in academy history and is the only Division I-A team without at least a tie (Oklahoma State, the other winless team, is 0-10-1). So instead of talk of salvaging a season tomorrow at Veterans Stadium against the 4-6 Cadets, the Midshipmen will be trying to avoid the first winless and tieless season in modern Navy football.
"We go out and work hard every day, and things just haven't been clicking," said Stramanak, who leads the Midshipmen in touchdowns with five. "Hopefully, this week it'll click. It's a little late, but late's better than never."
Going into the 11th game of the season waiting for things to "click" is far from what the Midshipmen expected when the season began. Last season, coach George Chaump's first, the Midshipmen finished 5-6 in their best showing since a 6-5 mark in 1982.
"I looked at the schedule, I looked at the tapes of our opponents and I looked at the strength of our team and I knew we were going to have a highly successful season," said senior linebacker Byron Ogden, a co-captain. "When I look at 0-10, it makes me buckle over in pain. Never in my worst nightmare did I ever think it would come to this."
Besides the normal adrenalin that flows with an Army-Navy contest, the Midshipmen can get inspiration from the 1948 game, when an 0-8 Navy team entered the game as a 21-point underdog against third-ranked Army. Trailing 21-14 with just minutes left, Navy quarterback Slats Basinger scored on a 5-yard run and Roger Drew added the extra point for a 21-21 tie. Played at Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium before 102,000 fans -- including President Harry Truman, who stayed on the sidelines right to the final play -- it was one of the most storied games in the rivalry.
"There are so many examples of that in this rivalry, and that's why they say you can throw out the records," Ogden said. "You play Army and it's against guys that go through the same stuff, the same discipline and the same type of lifestyle. You just go out against them and put it all on the line."