Throw the records out the window. The annual Army vs. Navy game has shown that anything can and will happen in this storied service academy rivalry.
Navy leads the overall series by a narrow 56-49-7 margin. For the most part, it’s always a competitive and exciting matchup.
Still, the 2-9 Black Knights are facing an uphill battle against the 7-4 Midshipmen. But it’s not the steepest climb they’ve faced during their 10-game losing streak, which dates back to 2002.
This year isn’t just about the rivalry, though. An added incentive is in the mix. Both teams knocked off Air Force for the first time since 2005, meaning the Commander in Chief’s Trophy is up for grabs for the first time since then.
But why should Navy worry about its land-faring rivals?
Army has been competitive this season despite its apparently awful record. It lost 41-40 to the BCS-bound Northern Illinois Huskies and lost four other games to bowl-bound teams, too.
Running the ball has been its crutch this season, as it usually is. The Black Knights run the ball an FBS-most 86 percent of its offensive plays. They lead the nation in yards per game on the ground with 369.8. Navy is 60th in the nation in rush defense, allowing 160 yards per game.
Navy, who boasts the FBS’s sixth-ranked rushing offense, falls behind with 285.5 yards per game on the ground. Army is near the bottom (118th) in rush defense, surrendering an awful 238 yards each game.
So, why is Navy in trouble again?
Last year, Army got close, losing a fourth-quarter tie thanks to two field goals by the Midshipmen in the final quarter.
It was close.
But in a game like this, Army has the advantage at the quarterback position, despite the team’s lacking demonstrated ability to move the ball through the air. Trent Steelman is a senior and almost led his team to the win last year.
Keenan Reynolds, Navy’s freshman QB, has stepped up and led the Midshipmen to five wins in six games after taking the reins. Reynolds replaced junior starting QB Trey Miller during the team’s overtime win over Air Force and hasn’t looked back.
This game, though, transcends the football field. There is so much emotion and pride at stake that it will be interesting to see how the freshman responds.
It may look bleak for the Black Knights, but Army will compete until the final seconds of the 113th-annual Army-Navy Game.