WEST POINT, N.Y. - While the annual clash between the service-academy rivals means enough on its own, Army has added incentive in this season’s game. The 110th meeting in the storied series will take place on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 2:30 p.m. CBS will broadcast the game nationally. The Black Knights enter this year’s edition with a 5-6 record, meaning a win over the Midshipmen would guarantee them a spot in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl opposite Temple. Army has not been to the postseason since the 1996 Independence Bowl.
Army has won two straight games to keep their bowl hopes alive. Both games required a fourth-quarter comeback. The Black Knights trailed VMI 17-16 before scoring the game-winning points with less than nine minutes to go. In its last game, Army was down at North Texas, 13-10, before reaching the end zone with under two minutes to go.
In addition to trying to keep their winning streak alive, the Black Knights will be trying to stop a seven-game losing streak to their arch rivals from Annapolis. Navy’s current winning streak is the longest run of success either academy has had in the history of the series. Army will also be trying to stop an eight-game losing streak in Commander In Chief Trophy games.
Freshman QB Trent Steelman is on track to become only the second plebe to start for the Black Knights versus Navy. Now senior Carson Williams started against the Mids in 2006, becoming the first Army rookie signal caller to start in the series. Steelman had his best rushing game of the season last time out at North Texas on Nov. 21 with a career-best 132 rushing yards on 23 carries. Steelman is Army’s leading rusher with 690 yards this season. When he takes the first snap versus the Mids, he will also become the first Army quarterback, regardless of class, to start 12 games in a season.
TELEVISION Network: CBS Play-by-Play: Verne Lundquist Color Analyst: Gary Danielson Sideline Reporter: Tracy Wolfson
ARMY RADIO Army Sports Network Flagship: WABC (770-AM, New York, N.Y.) Affiliates: WALL (1340-AM, Middletown, N.Y.); WEOK (1390-AM, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.); The WOLF (94.3/97.3-FM, Kingston, N.Y.) Play-by-Play: John Minko Color Analyst: Dean Darling Sideline: Rich DeMarco Program Host: Bob Outer
The 90-minute “Army Football Tailgate Show,” hosted by Rich DeMarco and Bob Outer begins at 12:30 p.m. Pre-game coverage starts at 2 p.m.
SATELLITE RADIO The Army Sports Network game broadcast will be carried via Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 121) and XM Satellite Radio (channel 141) beginning at 2:30 p.m.
INTERNET STREAMING The entire Army Sports Network audio broadcast, including the “Army Football Tailgate Show,” will be streamed live via ITT Knight Vision on www.goARMYsports.com each week. Subscription fees apply.
A live audio stream is also available for ITT Knight Vision subscribers.
On Tuesdays of game weeks, Rich Ellerson’s weekly press conference will be video streamed live on ITT Knight Vision. Wednesday's “This Week in Army Football,” show will also be video streamed live. Both events are available only to ITT Knight Vision subscribers.
COACHING MATCH UP ARMY HEAD COACH RICH ELLERSON Alma Mater: Hawai’i, 1977 1st Season at Army (5-6, .455) 10th Season Overall (65-47, .580) Record vs. Navy: 0-0
NAVY COACH KEN NIUMATALOLO Alma Mater: Hawai’i, 1989 2nd Season at Navy (16-10, .615) 2nd Season Overall (16-10, .615) Record vs. Army: 1-0
SCOUTING THE MIDSHIPMEN Ken Niumatalolo is in his second full season as the Mids head coach and his 11th season on the staff in Annapolis. He has guided Navy to back-to-back eight-win seasons and two bowl appearances in his two seasons. Following the Army game, the Midshipmen will play in the Texas Bowl.
Navy is playing 13 games this season thanks to its trip to Hawai’i on Nov. 28. The Mids had their two-game winning streak snapped with a 24-17 loss in Honolulu. Navy led 17-10 in the first half, but the Warriors tied the game just before the half and scored the only points of the second half on a touchdown pass in the third quarter. Hawai’i outgained the Mids, 428-336, including 366 yards passing. Navy rushed for 248 yards paced by quarterback Ricky Dobbs’ 127 yards. Dobbs also completed 5-of-9 passes for 88 yards.
The Navy offense features the nation’s third-ranked rushing attack at 279.67 yards per game. The Mids have six players that have rushed for at least 200 yards. Dobbs is the squad’s top rusher with 924 yards and a team-leading 23 touchdowns. Vince Murray is right on his heels with 884 yards and six scores. Dobbs has also completed 44 of his 84 passing attempts for 840 yards and four touchdowns against only two interceptions. Mario Washington is the Mids’ top receiver with nine catches for 165 yards. Navy has four players averaging at least 20.0 yards per catch.
The Navy defense is ranked in the top half of the NCAA statistics in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense. The Mids are allowing 345.83 total yards (44th), 127.92 (41st) rushing yards and 21.33 points per game (33rd). Ross Pospisil leads the team with 91 total tackles and 48 solo stops. Tony Haberer and Tyler Simmons are second on the list with 69 and 63 stops, respectively. Pospisil and Haberer also lead the Mids with 6.0 tackles for loss each. Craig Schaefer has a team-high 5.0 sacks, while Wyatt Middleton leads the team with three interceptions.
Punter Kyle Delahooke is the Mids’ special teams leader, averaging 43.51 yards per boot which ranks 19th in the nation. As a team, Navy is 16th in the country in net punting at 38.04 yards per kick. Joe Buckley is 9 for 12 on field goal tries, including a 50-yarder. Mario Washington is the Mids’ main punt returner with 12 attempts for 85 yards, while Gee Gee Greene has handled most of the kickoff returns with 33 for 607 yards.
THE ARMY-NAVY SERIES While Army enjoyed the upper hand against Navy during the majority of the decade of the 1990s, Navy has turned the tide in recent years. The Midshipmen have captured 10 of the last 12 meetings, including the past seven, to grab a 53-49-7 advantage in the classic rivalry. The Mids current seven-game winning streak is the longest in the series by either academy.
Hard-fought Army victories were commonplace in the 1990s, with the Black Knights prevailing in seven of those 10 matchups. Those seven Army victories came by a TOTAL of just 24 points, with an amazing six-game stretch of Cadet wins decided by a TOTAL of only 14 points. The point differential over the course of the 109-game series stands at a rather microscopic 295 points (an average of 2.7 points per game). That figure stood at 92 entering the 2002 contest, but Navy has outscored Army 274-71 the last seven years. The Mids blasted Army 58-12 in 2002, setting a series-record scoring total in the process, then followed with 34-6, 42-13, 42-23, 26-14, 38-3 and 34-0 victories the past five years.
FAMILIAR FACES Despite the fact that Army head coach Rich Ellerson will be coaching in his first Army-Navy game, there will be no need for an introduction to Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo during pre-game warmups. During Ellerson’s stint as Hawai’i’s defensive coordinator from 1987-91, Niumatalolo lettered three times at quarterback for the Warriors.
Ellerson became familiar with the triple-option offense during his time on the Warriors’ staff when former Navy, and current Georgia Tech, head coach Paul Johnson served as the offensive coordinator. Niumatalolo served as an assitant under Johnson before becoming head coach.
In addition, Army associate head coach Gene McKeehan, who works with the offensive guards and centers, served as an assistant on the Navy staff from 1995-2000. McKeehan was the Mids’ assistant head coach and worked with the offensive line.
ARMY-NAVY COACHING DEBUTS Army head coach Rich Ellerson will be trying to stop a recent trend when he takes the field for the first time as the Black Knights’ leader versus Navy. The last Army head coach to win their first game against the Mids was Tom Cahill in 1966.
Since Cahill, Black Knight coaches have gone 0-9 in their first Army-Navy games.
ARMY AT LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD The annual Army-Navy tilt will be the Black Knights’ second game of the season at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Army lost a 27-13 decision to Temple on Oct. 17.
The Black Knights have never won in the facility. Army is 0-5 in the previous Army-Navy games played at Lincoln Financial Field.
Army’s last win in the City of Philadelphia was in 2001. That game was the last Army-Navy tilt contested at Veteran’s Stadium.
Lincoln Financial Field is slated to host the annual classic in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017. The game will be played in Washington, D.C. in 2011 and Baltimore, Md. in 2014 and 2016.
SHAKE THE RUST OFF When the Black Knights take the field to face Navy it will be their first game since a victory at North Texas on Nov. 21. The 21 days between games is the Black Knights’ longest layoff since waiting 24 days to play the Independence Bowl in 1996.
The last time Army had two off weeks before facing the Mids was during the 1994 campaign. The Black Knights lost to Boston University, 21-12 on Nov. 12 before defeating Navy on Dec. 3, 22-20.
MOMENTUM ON THEIR SIDE Entering the annual contest with Navy, Army has won its last two games. It is only the second time since 1987 that the Black Knights have entered the Navy game on a winning streak. The 2005 team won its last four games before squaring off with the Mids.
The Black Knights’ win at North Texas on Nov. 21 marked only the second time since 1996 that Army won its game immediately prior to facing Navy.
The last 10 times that Army has entered its annual rivalry game following a win, the Black Knights have gone 7-3 versus the Mids.
UP NEXT ... The fate of Army’s season will be determined against Navy. A victory over the Midshipmen would send the Black Knights into the 2009 EagleBank Bowl to play Temple, their first postseason appearance since 1996. A Navy victory would end Army’s season at 5-7.