Army-Navy: More than bragging rights at stake

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Army wants a promotion. The Black Knights are tired of ending their season against Navy.

Army wants to keep playing and get stationed in a bowl game.

The orders are clear. Beat Navy on Saturday in the 110th meeting of the annual patriotic rivalry game and the Black Knights (5-6) will play Temple in the EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington on Dec. 29.

Army's season is over with a loss.

"We get to play one more game and we get to do what we want to do, playing a game late in the season that has bowl implications," Army coach Rich Ellerson said.

The Black Knights have long been out of the bowl mix or even been considered a threat to beat Navy (8-4). The Midshipmen have turned the passionate series into a lopsided affair - seven straight wins by a 274-71 margin. Navy is 53-49-7 overall against Army for its biggest lead in a series that began in 1890.

"These guys know that we've been beating them a couple of times and no senior class or team wants to be the one that ends it," Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said.

Navy's senior class can extend a few more streaks with another win. The Midshipmen would clinch a record seventh straight Commander-In-Chief's trophy with a victory. Navy has won a service academy-record 14 consecutive games against Army and Air Force. Navy's last loss to a service academy was against Air Force in 2002.

As an added bonus, a win would deny Army its first bowl bid since 1996.

No need to stop now.

"Army is always a great game because of all that is on top of that as well," Navy senior linebacker Ross Pospisil said. "The service members as well as all of the people who are watching it (remember)."

Army has had only bragging rights at stake for most of the last decade. The Black Knights, who haven't won this game since 2001, could possibly finish with a winning record if they beat Navy and then the resurgent Owls. Army hasn't recorded a winning record since 1996, and had posted some of the worst records in football over that span.

The Black Knights have two one-win seasons this decade and went 0-13 in 2003. They went 3-9 three straight seasons from 2006-08.

Ellerson has helped make Army respectable again in his first season. They've won two straight and shouldn't be such a pushover on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, the NFL home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

"The thing that I am the most proud of, that I think the senior class should be most proud of, is the internal voice, the internal culture that the football team has," Ellerson said. "The expectations internally, the way the men carry one another, their relationship to West Point, their expectations with respect to the Army. All of those things I think are right."

Army senior tackle Victor Ugenyi said there will be time later to reflect on the achievements. Beat Navy, and there's still time to make this season a special one to remember.

"Everyone is going to be watching. You hear from your alumni and past players," he said. "You take it as they really care about you. We love all the support but we have to refocus ... Just beating Navy is special, but to do that and get a bowl bid will turn this program around."

Navy already has a postseason date against Missouri in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 31.

Sure, this game won't boast Heisman Trophy contenders, BCS teams or future NFL stars. Yet it has a unique place on the sports calendar because of players who go on to risk more than fighting for an extra yard for a first down.

"At the end of the game, we have great respect for each other and for each institution," Niumatalolo said.


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