Navy out to knock Air Force off perch

Some Mids say Falcons is academy opponent they'd most like to beat

College Football

October 06, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Two seasons ago, this question was posed to Navy co-captain Terence Anderson:

"On the one hand you have Army; on the other you have Air Force. You can only beat one of them. Which one do you choose?"

Anderson's reply? "I know the brass around here isn't going to like this, but I'd rather beat Air Force."

Nothing much has changed. No team gets the goat of Navy's players like Air Force, the predominant service academy on the football field.

Merely perceived or true, the Midshipmen believe the Falcons have an unnecessary haughtiness about them, receive greater latitude in the conduct of their daily academy lives and generally don't like their air of supremacy.

Today at FedEx Field is the latest opportunity for Navy (0-3) to temper the Air Force (2-1) airs when the first Commander-in-Chief's game is played, starting at noon.

"Air Force has an air of arrogance to them that we don't like, definitely something you don't see when you play Army," said Navy wide receiver Jeff Gaddy. "This game is definitely emotional."

Said slotback Gene Reese: "We've got a burning desire to beat them. We're made from the same thread as Air Force, but they're like a different group. Army, we have great respect for, but Air Force has something we want, and that makes it different."

Navy's players often say that the Falcons do a lot of talking on the field, something they don't usually encounter.

"They've been successful, and they know it," said Reese.

It is a week during which Air Force exchange students in Annapolis are subjected to good-natured hazing.

"We do some practical jokes on them," said Reese. "But nothing to really harm them. This [plebe] class is slipping a little bit."

Asked to elaborate on just what is done to them, Reese said with a smile: "That's classified information."

"You might go in their rooms and mess up their uniforms a little bit, stuff like that," said fullback Bryce McDonald. "Or put up some banners. But, hey, the exchange students try to play jokes on us, too."

The football is no laughing matter. In the past two decades, Navy has won twice in the series, once at home, once at Colorado Springs. It has played the Falcons tough four of the past five years and boasts only one victory.

Having Brian Madden - who has never played any significant time against Air Force - at quarterback should be a positive factor today for the Mids.

"Brian's a leader with not only physical ability but the intangibles," said Reese. "He's the only quarterback I know who can beat up on linemen."

Said McDonald: "He's like a general out there with his presence. He's like having two fullbacks in the backfield."

And two weeks between a more positive-looking loss (38-21 to Boston College) and this game should enable Navy to enter the game at nearly full strength.

"The time off is going to be good because we're healthy," said Gaddy. "We've made great strides in practice, and I think it's going to continue to happen."

Strides will be required for Navy to overcome the Air Force hex. Until that trend changes, the Falcons will always get the last word.

Navy today

Opponent: Air Force (2-1)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

Time: Noon

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

Line: Air Force by 15

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