Conference championship weekend is fun to watch. The College Football Playoff is really exciting for football fans. But, to me, the Army/Navy game is the most special game of the year. You can’t argue that any players, aside from Air Force, put in more work while being away at school. I once read a book called Soldiers First by Joe Drape which followed numerous Army football players and went through their daily lives. These players wake up at about the same time I go to bed on an average night. They go through military training daily. They are also some of the smartest students in the country and must meet a GPA requirement and score high on standardized tests just to get into the school. On top of that, they play Division I football, which is very taxing on these young men. I respect what all of these men do and what they will do in the future, that’s why this is my favorite game.
This weekend’s game in Philadelphia will be the 118th installment of the Army/Navy game. Historically, Navy leads the series 60-50-7. The 21st century has heavily favored Navy, considering they’ve won 15 of the last 17 matchups, including their 14 game win streak from 2002 to 2015. Army finally broke that streak last year with a 21-17 win. This year will be interesting as well, as the Black Knights come in sporting an 8-3 record, while the Midshipmen stand at 6-5.
You already know that this game will feature very little passing. Both teams run their own variation of the triple option and are known for attacking opposing defenses by running the ball. Army leads the country in rushing yards with 4,049 and rushing yards per game with 368.1. Navy is 3rd in rushing yards with 3,822 and is 2nd in rushing yards per game with 347.5. Army’s defense is no slouch either, allowing the 21st fewest yards total this season, while Navy lies at 46th.
The Black Knights’ offense is led by their quarterback, Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw is 10th in the nation in rushing yards with 1,472 and is 1st in quarterback rushing. Army’s next best rusher is their fullback, Darnell Woolfolk, with 668 yards, and is tied with Bradshaw for rushing touchdowns with 11. Army has a group of running backs that will look to attack Navy’s defense this Saturday. On defense, the Black Knights have a strong line-backing core, consisting of James Nachtigal, Cole Christiansen, and Alex Aukerman, who lead the team in tackles respectively. Army will need to key on Navy’s quarterback stop their explosive offense.
Navy, too, wins the majority of their games through their quarterback, Zach Abey. Abey is 4th in quarterback rushing and 19th in total rushing with 1,322 yards on the year and 14 touchdowns. The Midshipmen running back core is a solid one, with Malcolm Perry and Chris High being the driving force and having accumulated 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing this season. Senior linebacker Micah Thomas is the clear cut leader on this defense and is going to look to dominate in his last Army/Navy game.
The two teams are very similar; both head coaches have coached under Paul Johnson and learned this offense. Ken Niumatalolo’s career record at Navy is 83-47 while Jeff Monken has not had his luck at West Point, with just a 22-26 record. Records aside, this game is always competitive. However, I think Army is on a hot streak at the moment, aside from their loss against North Texas, and the Black Knights win this one in a close game, 24-21. The Black Knight’s offense will be too much for the Midshipmen and Ahmad Bradshaw will have a huge game. This game is so special for this country, these players, and it gives the military something that they can root for. Regardless the outcome, I can’t wait to see this one.