On a weekend when college football takes a break ahead of bowl season, one football game continues its long standing tradition. The annual matchup between Army (2-9) and Navy (9-2) returns to Philadelphia as the Black Knights and the Midshipmen face off at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday in the 116th installment of the rivalry between the two service academies.
The history of the two programs is often the biggest storyline of the the game. Navy leads the all-time series, 59-49-7. Army enjoyed a solid stretch between 1986 and 1996, with a 9-2 record, but Navy has clearly proven to be the stronger program in recent years.
On paper, this year’s matchup appears quite lopsided. Navy has defeated Army 13 straight times, and enters the weekend as the heavy favorite. The Midshipmen are ranked No. 21 in the country and having a wildly successful season, with their only two losses coming against Top 15 teams. Navy will also take part in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28 against Pittsburgh and gets to play in their home stadium in Annapolis. It’s the 12th time in 13 years the Midshipmen will play postseason football.
All of the service academies run the triple option so Army and Navy should be familiar with how to defend it. Navy rushes for the second-most yards in the country per game (330.1) while Army ranks No. 8 (254).
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is currently tied for the FBS record in touchdowns (83) and can tie the Division I mark with one more score.
"That'd be pretty awesome but it's not gonna happen just by showing up," Reynolds told reporters earlier this week. He is also looking to become the first quarterback to go 4-0 in the rivalry.
According to second-year Army coach Jeff Monken, the Black Knights aren’t focusing on how long it’s been since they’ve last beaten Navy.
“This football team has never lost to Navy and that is the way we have to approach it," Monken said at the Army-Navy press luncheon. These guys aren't responsible for the last 13 years." Army is riding a four-game losing streak but can salvage what has been an underwhelming season by winning their most important game.
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has never lost to Army (7-0) but agrees that the streak doesn’t mean much heading into Saturday.
"We recognize that none of those games from the past have any bearing on this one. You can't carry over any points,” Niumatalolo told reporters. We have to get ready for this year, this game and this Army team."
During the current 13-game winning streak, Navy has outscored Army 417-142. However, there have been some close contests recently such as last year’s 17-10 Navy win in Baltimore. The game will be played in Philadelphia for the 86th time, by far the most of any city.
After beating Air Force in October, Navy could reclaim the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy with a win on Saturday. The Midshipmen have won the trophy nine of the last 12 seasons.
The first Army-Navy game took place in 1890 but has been played every year since 1930.
The game is most often played in Philadelphia, but has also taken place in Maryland and New Jersey. New York has also played host, with Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the Polo Grounds in Washington Heights as the venue. The game was played at Chicago's Soldier Field in 1926. In 1983, the Black Knights and the Midshipmen played at the Rose Bowl, when a Pasadena non-profit foundation raised $3 million for the event.