Army, Navy drums beat even louder

Trophy adds punch to classic's 106th renewal today

December 03, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Philadelphia -- All the pomp, pageantry and tradition that make the Army-Navy game unique will be on prominent display again today when the military academy rivals clash in their 106th meeting at Lincoln Financial Field.

But to the opposing football teams, it's primarily about capturing the hardware and resultant bragging rights for servicemen and women throughout the world.

For the first time in nine years, the coveted Commander in Chief's Trophy will be the spoil that goes to the winner, adding vital significance to a game that always stands as the most important of the year for the Black Knights and Midshipmen.

"This is the Super Bowl of my life," said Army defensive back Dhyan Tarver, a team captain. "It's the game that I live for, the game that determines a season."

"Everyone thinks of this as The Game," pitched in Navy quarterback Lamar Owens, the co-captain. "The Army-Navy game is bigger than any bowl game. It affects the morale of the whole brigade. This game means so much to so many people."

Nationally televised and broadcast in this country and carried throughout the world on Armed Forces Television and Radio, Army-Navy will be watched and heard by those in harm's way in the Middle East and at wherever American military personnel are stationed. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.

According to the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y., Army coach Bobby Ross even spoke with astronaut Bill McArthur, a 1973 West Point graduate, from the International Space Station earlier this week. "He's going to be tuned in from space. I never thought anything like this would come about," Ross said.

It's no wonder. Army personnel finally have something to be excited about, a four-game winning streak this season after 11 straight losses, an upgraded defense that has soared from last to 27th nationally among Division I schools, and a legitimate shot at the Midshipmen for the first time since a 26-17 victory in 2001.

Conversely, Navy is shooting for a school-record third consecutive Commander in Chief's Trophy, its first lead in the series since 1991 and a clean sweep of Army for the fourth time in history for its 18 senior players.

The events leading to game day have been a tad unsettling for the Midshipmen.

Coach Paul Johnson, who is 6-1 against Army and Air Force, went to the hospital Tuesday after experiencing sharp pains, but returned the next day after extensive tests were negative. The cause of the distress remains unknown.

And the coveted Commander in Chief's Trophy - named in honor of the nation's president - was stolen from the Navy locker room by pranksters (presumably Army exchange students) and was missing for two days before being located in a storage room in Bancroft Hall, a residence building.

After the recovery, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk reiterated his intention to "bring it to Philadelphia and the winner can take it home."

That incident caught the attention of the Navy players and the brigade. "That gave us some good motivation," said senior wide receiver Mick Yokitis. "Now, four years of never losing to Army would be even more huge."

Johnson said the Black Knights are playing "with a confidence and swagger. That's what jumps out of the tape. We'll have to see if we can't take that away a little bit."

Army believes that claiming the trophy "would be tangible proof that this team has really turned things around," said star running back Carlton Jones.

One of the rare college athletic events when both schools' entire student bodies attend, the game will be the finale for the seniors on each side, who will be bound thereafter for destinations unknown.

kentbaker@balt.sun.com

Today's game

Army (4-6) vs. Navy (6-4)

Site -- Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Time -- 2:30 p.m.

TV/Radio -- Chs. 13, 9/1090 AM, 1430 AM

Last week -- Both teams were idle

Series record -- Tied, 49-49-7

Line -- Navy by 6 1/2

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