Army, Navy seek rival gain

Everything's at stake for opposite-end programs

College Football

November 26, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - If fertile ground ever existed for the possibility of a classic upset, it lies on the surface of Lincoln Financial Field.

Army and Navy - going in opposite directions in their football programs - meet for the 104th renewal of their classic rivalry Dec. 6 with everything to gain, but for different reasons.

Navy has a lot to lose, particularly sole possession of the Commander in Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1981, an 8-4 record (the academy's best since 1996) and a potential appearance in a postseason game.

Army, which is carrying the nation's longest losing streak at 14, will be merely seeking a victory, any victory, and what better team for it to come against than Navy? The Midshipmen turned the game into their personal playground last season with a 58-12 romp behind quarterback Craig Candeto's record-setting six touchdowns.

"I think people have a preconceived notion about this game," said Black Knights co-captain Clint Woody, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound wide receiver. "But I think it's going to be surprisingly close compared to what happened last year."

The cliche that says "you can throw out the record books" when assessing this game is usually true. Navy will be a top-heavy favorite this time, but upsets are almost ordinary in this series.

"It hurts your pride when you lose like that," said Woody, who will attend flight school after graduation. "It was horrible at the end of the game last year."

"You just want to beat Navy any time just as much as they want to beat us," said linebacker Ryan Kent, the other Army co-captain. "If we had lost by one or two points last year, there would be the same motivation. One win would not make up for everything else, but it would sure give the seniors a chance to feel a little good about themselves."

Candeto said the Midshipmen have added motivation. "We have a chance to make ourselves more appealing for a bowl game," he said. "This is a dangerous game. People say, `Army's not that good.' But, most likely, it will be close."

After the euphoria of becoming eligible for a bowl game subsided, Navy is facing reality.

Competition is fierce for the bowl slots that might become available, thanks to 12-game schedules that have allowed teams an extra chance to meet the requirement of six wins against Division I-A opposition.

"This [Army-Navy] is almost like our bowl game," said Candeto.

"In my mind, I don't think we're really going to get one," added Navy linebacker Eddie Carthan, a co-captain with Candeto. "So, I don't want to leave with a loss. This might be the last football game I ever play in."

Since a bid is contingent on the results of games left to be played elsewhere around the nation, only time will tell if Navy is bypassed.

One thing that unites these two respectful foes is their distaste for Air Force, the other academy that has dominated possession of the Commander in Chief's series, the competition among the three major service academies.

Air Force won six straight times and 17 of the past 21 years. The trophy has not been in Annapolis since 1981, and this Navy team can change that.

"It's a big relief that it's not going to Air Force again," Woody said. "They're so cocky and they've had it long enough. I'd rather have us win it, but I'd definitely rather have Navy take it than Air Force."

At least on that one point, these two fierce rivals will agree.

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (7-4) vs. Army (0-12)

Site: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

When: Dec. 6, 4 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

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