Commander in Chief's Trophy reflects Midshipmen's might

Commentary

December 04, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

Philadelphia -- Let me get this straight. The Naval Academy wants you to believe that a few West Point exchange students were able to break into Ricketts Hall and steal the Commander in Chief's Trophy right out from under the combined noses of the Academy's U.S. Marine security detail and the Secret Service.

If you watched the 106th Army-Navy football game, you could see for yourself that such a scenario is ridiculous. There were, what, 70 of the biggest, baddest members of the West Point corps of cadets on the gridiron at Lincoln Financial Field yesterday and the trophy was sitting right there on a table at the 50-yard line ... and they didn't get close enough to see their reflections in it.

The Black Knights were supposed to show up with some momentum after running up a four-game winning streak that included the victory over Air Force that put the trophy up for grabs yesterday, but the Midshipmen ran over and around them until there was no doubt who remained the dominant service academy football program.

That doesn't figure to change any time soon. Navy, after a swing through San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 22, will return next year with largely the same team that came within a missed tackle against Maryland and a field goal against Stanford of having a truly remarkable season.

In other words, there's a pretty good chance somebody will have to break into Bancroft Hall if either Army or Air Force wants to get a sniff of the CIC Trophy next year.

Academy officials continue to point to the likelihood that West Point exchange students were responsible for the temporary disappearance of the CIC Trophy last week, but suspicion remains high that it was an inside job. Even some Navy fans concede that it is unlikely that Army was responsible for the trophy-napping, because the note was spelled correctly.

Navy coach Paul Johnson still looked a little gimpy yesterday - four days after being hospitalized with a painful lower back - but he said there was no way that he would have missed the chance to coach a fourth straight victory over Army.

"It was painful," he said, "but the way the game was going made it a little better. There was no way I was going to miss it, I can tell you that.

"I figured worst-case scenario, I would call the game from the [coaches] box, but I wanted to be on the sidelines. It wasn't that big a deal."

Every Navy move was calculated, right down to the fourth-quarter Gatorade bath that the Mids decided not to give to their ailing coach.

"The safety of our coach is first and foremost," said quarterback Lamar Owens, who was named Most Valuable Player of the game. "Our coach was a little bit sick. He missed a practice and we don't want him to miss any more. We didn't want to take a chance on hurting him, because we need him."

Moments before kickoff, it was announced in the press box that Army was using the Temple Owls' locker room at Lincoln Financial Field, causing the point spread to jump from six points to 13.

Sophomore fullback Adam Ballard said that the Army defense was doing some chirping in the first quarter, before the Midshipmen scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions.

"There were talking a little bit," said Ballard, who rushed for 192 yards and two touchdowns, "but they weren't talking much in the second half."

While Ballard was wrapping up his terrific afternoon, a national television audience watched on another network as USC star Reggie Bush cemented his Heisman Trophy credentials with another electrifying performance.

He had 198 yards rushing with more than 10 minutes left in the second quarter as the Trojans undressed 11th-ranked crosstown rival UCLA. Simply amazing.

Stupid government intervention update: Republican congressman Joe Barton of Texas announced that the Energy and Commerce subcommittee is going to take a look at the "deeply flawed" Bowl Championship Series format, raising suspicion that Congress has finally run out of anything useful to do.

Now that we're on the subject, what could possibly be wrong with the BCS, other than Texas coach Mack Brown's poor telephone etiquette. USC is still No. 1, right?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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