Visiting Cadets think they can feel at home

Army says it can find strength in numbers in Baltimore vs. Navy

College Football

November 23, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Army-Navy football game 10 days from now at PSINet Stadium is considered basically a Naval Academy show, but the Cadets aren't worried about being viewed as a visiting team.

"We'll be here 4,000 strong," said senior co-captain Derrick Goodwin, one of Army's four starting linebackers. "We'll have plenty of fans here. This game has been played at Giants Stadium when we were seen as the home team, and Navy won. That's all you need to know."

"Army-Navy is Army-Navy wherever it is," added wide receiver Brian Bowdish, the other co-captain. "It's tough playing here, but for some reason, I think we'll have plenty of backing."

Goodwin, Bowdish and first-year coach Todd Berry were ushered to PSINet Stadium from West Point, N.Y., via helicopter Tuesday for the official kickoff to Army-Navy festivities, the off-week news conference.

For a game in which throwing out previous results really is a good idea, the record book is surely insignificant this season. They own a combined record of 1-19.

"The records go out the window," said Bowdish, who suffered a broken ankle in Army's loss to Louisville on Nov. 11 and will not play. "The fact is, this is always one of those games that can go either way. We're both 0-0 before this one."

Army (1-9) defeated Tulane at home, 21-17, on Oct. 21 and three weeks later Navy bowed to the Green Wave in a New Orleans shootout, 50-38. That comparative score has little or no meaning either.

"For this game, you think about the tradition, the history, not the other games," Bowdish said. "A lot of times it's overwhelming, that you're part of something bigger than yourself."

Berry has created a new atmosphere on the Hudson after replacing long-time coach Bob Sutton. As a member of offense-oriented Conference USA, he has opened up the Cadets' attack to the point where the team is averaging 37 yards a game more on passing than rushing. This change gives Army a fresh look, although it hasn't yet been positively reflected in the win-loss column.

Meanwhile, Navy remains a wishbone team that depends heavily on ball control and possession from the ground game.

"We're really still just like the wishbone," Berry said. "But instead of pitching the ball on third down, we're throwing it. We're simply trying to create 1-on-1 situations, which is what everybody in college is trying to do no matter what offense you're running."

Berry, an Oklahoman by birth, came to Army from Illinois State, where his teams went 24-24 over four years in Division I-AA, including 11-3 last year. The Army-Navy frenzy will be a new experience for him, although he was impacted early by its unique nature.

"My father was in the Army and a football coach. Always and forever, we would watch this game together with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. One year, I wanted to switch the TV to I believe an Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game that was on the same day," Berry recalled. "He had coached some players in the game. He wouldn't let me.

"I remember him saying there is no more special game than Army-Navy, that the best of the best in the country were on the field all at one time. We always watched this game no matter what. The thing that impresses me is that they play with a greater level of passion and commitment and trust than anybody. As a coach, that is so refreshing to be around."

Goodwin, who will become an infantry officer, expects Navy -- which has been known to employ gimmick plays -- to empty the playbook for this one.

"You have to expect everything," he said. "They're going to use all the rounds in their guns. That's what we're going to do. This is like a one-game season."

Army-Navy '44

Coming Sunday, a special section looking at the 1944 Army-Navy football game, played between the nation's No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams during the height of World War II. It's the last Army-Navy game played in Baltimore until this year's, which is scheduled for Dec. 2 at PSINet Stadium.

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