Go Army! Beat Navy!
A general’s pep talk about actual life-and-death battles emerged as a driving force this season for the Army football team.
In the Army, the general said, you win or you die.
Far more consequential than bragging rights on the football field, but useful for a team that no longer ends its season against Navy.
“It is dramatic,” team captain Cole Christiansen said. “But I think it’s helped us a lot.”
Christiansen has been part of Army’s turnaround from perennial losing program to its lofty status today: ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1996, on a seven-game winning streak, headed to a bowl game and a 7-point favorite in Saturday’s 119th meeting against Navy.
The Army-Navy rivalry has often been known as patriotic — and for years, one of the most lopsided in sports. Navy hooked an anchor to the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with a series-best 14-game winning streak from 2002-2015.
The No. 22 Black Knights (9-2) are on top these days, winners of two straight in the series headed into Saturday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Last season’s game was an instant classic: Bennett Moehring narrowly missed a 48-yard field goal in the snow on the final play and Army held off Navy 14-13 to win the CIC Trophy for the first time since 1996.
Navy leads 60-51-7.
President Donald Trump will officiate the coin toss Saturday in his first Army-Navy game as president, where he’s also expected to make an announcement concerning the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Trump was at the 2016 game as president-elect. He will be the 10th sitting president to attend, a tradition that began with Theodore Roosevelt in 1901. Presidents, by custom, sit on the Army side of the stadium for one half and the Navy side for the other.
If history holds, Trump will likely see a close call: the last three games have been decided by a total of 9 points and only once since 2010 has a team won by more than a touchdown.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility to make sure we win,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “We’ve won some close games and we didn’t win some of those the first couple of years I was there.”
Navy (3-9) will have its first losing season since 2002 and won just two games in its fourth season in the American Athletic Conference.