Army-Navy Game 2013: Key Players to Watch in Historic Matchup

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 8: Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen scores the game-winning touchdown during a game against the Army Black Knights on December 8, 2012 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Navy won 17-13. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

The Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen will meet at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday for their annual bout in the historic rivalry that dates back to 1890.

The 114th edition of the tradition features two of the nation's best rushing attacks. The Black Knights have the land's second-best rushing attack with an average of 323.6 yards per game, while the Midshipmen sit right behind in third at 320.1.

Navy (7-4) has dominated this series in recent years, winning the last 11 contests. That said, the Black Knights (3-8) enter Saturday's bout well equipped to turn things around.

As is the case each year, the spectacle featuring an inter-service rivalry will be decided by a few key players.


Angel Santiago, QB, Army

Nov 9, 2013; West Point, NY, USA; Army Black Knights quarterback Angel Santiago (3) rushes the ball during the first half against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The problem for the three-win Black Knights has been simple: The offense is one-dimensional.

Defenses know Army is going to come out and run the ball. Junior quarterback Angel Santiago has simply been ineffective this year as he has completed just 49.4 percent of his 83 attempts for 542 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Santiago has just four games with double-digit pass attempts this year. While he has added 553 yards and nine scores as a rusher, Santiago must be more effective through the air.

He finds himself in a position to succeed Saturday with the Navy defense surely more focused on the next player on this list. Santiago must use this to his advantage and make a few big plays through the air to help pull off the upset.


Terry Baggett, RB, Army

Junior running back Terry Baggett is the heart and soul of the Army offense.

Baggett has averaged an outstanding 8.2 yards per carry this season, which has allowed him to record 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns while recording 10 or fewer carries in four games.

Oh, and Baggett is capable of a 300-yard game. In mid-October, Baggett took 18 carries and turned it into 304 yards and four touchdowns against Eastern Michigan. ESPN further illustrates why this was so impressive:

Baggett must be at his best Saturday to help Army break a serious losing streak.


Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy

Nov 22, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Navy Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds (19) drops back for a pass against the San Jose State Spartans during the first quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Army coach Rich Ellerson knows exactly what makes the Navy offense so formidable as illustrated by Sal Interdonato of the Times Herald-Record:

Bingo. Sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds has thrown for 1,028 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions this year. That sounds humble enough without a glance at his rushing statistics—1,124 more yards and 26 touchdowns.

The task of stopping Reynolds is a tough one, and the signal-caller himself understands Army's attack will focus on shutting him down, per Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun: "We've got a lot of guys that are capable of making big plays, that have made big plays throughout the season. If they're going to take me away, we're just going to have find ways to make plays."

Easier said than done. Reynolds has rushed for more than 100 yards in five games this year—two of which were 226 or more. He has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in six games—with a high of seven coming in a triple-overtime victory over San Jose State to close the season.

Reynolds is more than capable of exposing the Army defense that allows an average of 31.4 points per game. He should be the focal point of all viewers from start to finish.