WEST POINT, N.Y. - Two old and storied rivals, Army and Navy will meet for the 110th time on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. in one of the nation's greatest sports traditions.
The Black Knights, who bring a 5-6 record to the contest, hope to defeat their service academy-rival and qualify for the EagleBank Bowl versus Temple with a victory over the Midshipmen. Army has already posted the most wins in a season since the 1996 squad forged a 10-2 mark and advanced to the Independence Bowl.
"We are playing a game that has all kinds of meaning, both for this season and this team and from a traditionalist's perspective," said first year Army head coach Rich Ellerson. "Whether our Cadets know their Midshipmen is irrelevant - they know so much about each other. They have chosen the profession of arms while their country is at war - that says a lot about a young man. I challenge people to watch how we compete. Watch what's happening between the white lines and watch how we handle ourselves afterwards. Compare and contrast that with what you think of as great rivalries from around the country this week and last week. I think we compare favorably to all of them."
How to follow the game
The game will be carried live on television by CBS Sports. Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color analyst), and Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter) will relay the action.
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. Subscription fees apply. The game will be carried over the air on Army's flagship radio station WABC 770-AM (New York, N.Y.), and by affiliates WALL 1340-AM (Middletown, N.Y.) and WEOK1390-AM (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.). The WOLF 94.3/97.3-FM will also broadcast the game.
A live audio stream is also available for ITT Knight Vision subscribers.
A look at the matchups:
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
In the passing game, freshman Trent Steelman is 47 for 90 (.522) for 560 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He set career highs with 11 completions, 174 yards and the score opposite VMI. In addition to his freshman record for starts (11), Steelman also now owns the Academy record for victories by a freshman quarterback. The victory over North Texas was his fifth win as Army's starting signal caller. Jerryl Bennett was the last rookie in the modern era (since 1944) to win as many as two games as Army's starting quarterback in 1978.
Quarterback Ricky Dobbs has worked magic at quarterback for the Mids dating back to last season. The junior has completed 44 of his 84 passing attempts for 840 yards with four TDs and two interceptions on the season. While impressive through the air, Dobbs also leads the Navy ground game with 924 yards and 23 touchdowns in facilitating the Mids' triple-option offense.
IN THE BACKFIELD
Trent Steelman has been Army's leading rusher in five of the last seven games. He had a career-high 132 yards and a touchdown at North Texas. It was his second 100-yard game in three weeks, the first two 100-yard rushing games by an Army freshman quarterback. While Steelman's 690 yards and five rushing touchdowns lead the team, slotback Patrick Mealy is Army's second-leading rusher with 625 yards (56.8/game). Mealy has gained the second-most yards despite ranking third on the team with 97 rushing attempts. His 6.4 yards per carry leads the team, and he has a team-leading 16 rushes of at least 10 yards.
Dobbs has collected a school-record 23 rushing touchdowns, tying the NCAA mark for rushing scores in a season by a quarterback. Dobbs and junior fullback Vince Murray need 76 and 116 yards, respectively, to become just the second backfield tandem in Naval Academy history to rush for 1,000 yards concurrently. Murray is second on the team behind Dobbs with 884 yards and six TDs.
Senior WR Alejandro Villanueva was converted from a starting offensive lineman last season to a wide receiver. So far the results for the 6-10 wideout have paid dividends for the Black Knights. Villanueva leads the team with 29 catches, 460 yards and five touchdowns. His reception, yardage and touchdown totals are all already more than any Black Knight player had last season. Fellow senior Damion Hunter is second on the team with 25 receptions for 159 yards through 11 games. Hunter's reception total is already a career high. He caught 11 passes last season. His 25 catches this season is eight more than his career total entering the season.
An opportunistic Navy receiving corps has scored four touchdowns on the season. Mario Washington is the team's leader by receptions with nine, and is one of three players with 165 yards. Bobby Doyle (seven catches) and Marcus Curry (five, two TD) also have 165 receiving yards on the season. Greg Jones (six catches, 149 yards) and Cory Finnerty (5-49) each have one touchdown.
After using a number of different combinations on the front line, the Army offense has deployed the same five offensive lineman in each of the last six games. The unit has helped the Black Knights to rank as one of the most potent ground gainers in the FBS this season (14th, 212.09 yds/game), while ranking fifth in sacks allowed (0.82). The cast that has started each of the last six games includes: LT Anees Merzi, LG Fritz Bentler, C Zach Petersen, RG Seth Reed, and RT Jason Johnson.
The Navy offensive line has paved the way for the nation's No. 3 rushing attack this season. Seniors C/RG Curtis Bass (6-1, 265) and LT Jeff Battipaglia (6-4, 256) have each started a team-leading 25 consecutive games, while LG Osei Asante (6-1, 265) has been in the first unit in all 12 of the Mids' games in 2009. The most recent combination along the Navy front included LT Battipaglia, LG Asante, C Eric Douglass (6-2, 273), RG Bass, and RT John Dowd (6-4, 260).
Junior DE Josh McNary ranks third in the nation in sacks per game (1.14) and is second in the nation in tackles for loss per game (2.05). His 22.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage rank third on Army's single-season ledger. Senior and team captain Victor Ugenyi is currently tied for fifth place on the Army career sack list, and would move into sole possession of fourth place with another QB takedown.
Sophomore DE Jabaree Tuani is Navy's top threat on the defensive line, as he leads the Midshipmen's 3-4 front in tackles (45), TFL (4.5), and sacks (3.5). Noseguard Matt Nechak (31 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks) is second, while Chase Burge (24, 1.0, 0.5) is third.
Junior Mike linebacker Stephen Anderson is still Army's leading tackler with 83 total tackles despite suffering a season-ending knee injury at Air Force. Anderson had a career-high 16 stops before being injured. In his absence, sophomore LBs Andrew Rodriguez and Steve Erzinger have stepped up admirably. They rank second and fourth on the team's tackle list, respectively.
Navy linebackers are 1-2-3 in tackles on the squad this season. Team captain and inside linebacker Ross Pospisil if first on the team with 91 stops (48 solo), and is also tied for the lead with 6.0 tackles for loss. Fellow ILB Tony Haberer has 69 hits, including 6.0 for loss. Reserve linebacker Tyler Simmons is third on the Navy tackles list with 63. Outside LB Craig Schaefer is credited with 40 tackles, but holds the team lead with 5.0 sacks.
Junior FS Donovan Travis made a career-high 12 tackles, including 11 solo stops in the win over VMI. Travis ranks third on the team with 68 tackles this season. Travis added to his team-leading interception total with a pick in the win against Vanderbilt, and now has four interceptions on the season. Corner Mario Hill, who has started a team-leading 23 straight games, ranks behind Donnie Dixon (29) with 27 total stops on the year.
Cornerback Blake Carter is Navy's top tackler in the secondary with 49 tackles. His five pass breakups also lead the team. Free safety Emmett Merchant is not far behind with 48 hits, while tying for the team lead with two interceptions. At the other corner, Kevin Edwards has made 46 stops and broken up four passes.
For the season, sophomore Josh Jones has a team-high 14 returns for 95 yards. Jones has accounted for all four of the Black Knights' punt returns that have gone for more than 10 yards. He had a 13-yard return and a 15-yard return versus Tulane and a season-long 19-yard return opposite Vanderbilt. Fellow sophomore K Alex Carlton is 17 for 21 on field goal tries and 13 for 13 on PATs since taking over the placekicking duties against Duke. He is 6 for 7 on field goal attempts from longer than 40 yards. Carlton's 17 field goals rank second on the Army single-season list. He is only one shy of tying J. Parker's Academy record of 18 set in 1996. Carlton is ninth on the Army career field goal ledger.
This season has been a memorable one for Navy junior kicker Joe Buckley. Buckley won the kicking job the week of the Air Force game and then went out and nailed all three field goals, including a then career-long 47-yarder at the end of the half as well as the game-winning 38-yard field goal in overtime. He currently ranks second on the squad in scoring with 64 points on nine field goals and 37 extra points.
The Black Knights would go on to face Temple in the EagleBank Bowl Dec. 29 if they defeat Navy. A loss would end the Army's season at 5-7. Navy will face Missouri in the Texas Bowl on New Year's Eve.