BALTIMORE — Navy’s unprecedented 12-game winning streak against Army has increased the pressure on both teams Saturday.
The Cadets are desperate to snap a slide that began when the current crop of players were in grade school. The Midshipmen are determined to maintain the upper hand in a series that began in 1890.
“The streak is out there. Everybody on the team, everybody at the school realizes that,” Navy senior captain Parrish Gaines said. “It does kind of seem like something we’ve got to do. Everybody I’ve played with on this team has beat these guys every year.”
No Navy team since 2001 has lost to Army. During that time, the Midshipmen have outscored the Cadets 400-132, including 34-7 last year.
Before this 12-game run, the longest winning streak either team enjoyed was five.
“This is a game we want to win, particularly with all the talk about Navy having won so many in a row,” said first-year Army coach Jeff Monken, who helped the Midshipmen get the streak started while serving as an assistant coach at the Naval Academy from 2002-07.
Army (4-7) is a decided underdog against Navy (6-5). But there have been far bigger upsets in a rivalry the Midshipmen lead 58-49-7.
“Coach Monken said one thing to us: Right now, we haven’t played that team,” Army senior defensive back Geoffery Bacon said. “The 2014 Army team hasn’t played the 2014 Navy team. So right now, we’re 0-0.”
Beating Navy is always the top priority at Army.
“Not just to end the 12-game winning streak, but for us as a program,” running back Raymond Maples said. “To beat Navy to end the season — our archrival — is our mantra. It’s what we live by.”
Some things to know about the 115th Army-Navy game:
REYNOLDS WRAP: Army can’t win if it can’t stop quarterback Keenan Reynolds, the key to Navy’s triple-option attack. A year ago, Reynolds ran through the Cadets for 136 yards and three touchdowns. His 61 rushing touchdowns are an NCAA record for a quarterback, and he’s only a junior. “We’ve had a lot of good ones over the years, but Keenan is definitely the best since I’ve been here,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “His decision-making is on a different level. People always try to change it up and throw different wrinkles at us, but against that guy you’re wasting your time.”
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: It would appear Navy has an advantage playing at the home stadium of the Baltimore Ravens, which is 29 miles from the Naval Academy. “These games aren’t in anybody’s backyard. It’s an NFL stadium,” Monken said. “In my first year at Navy, in 2002, we played in the Meadowlands. That’s Army’s backyard and it didn’t make any difference. It doesn’t matter where you play. The difference is how you play.”
AMERICA’S GAME: This is essentially the only Division I game of note Saturday, so the players and coaches will be getting the full attention of anyone who cares about college footall. “We like it. It gives us a sense of pride, knowing we’re the only game on TV that day,” Gaines said. Monken said, “It’s a lot of fun to be part of games like this and to be in the spotlight of college football for a day. Even for people who don’t follow Army or Navy all year long, people who are college football fans, when they see there’s a game on, they’re going to turn it on and watch it.”
SNAZZY UNIFORMS: Navy will be wearing alternate uniforms for the game. The theme is “Don’t Tread On Me,” complete with a coiled rattlesnake within a red N on the navy blue helmet. Red stripes around the shoulders and navy blue numbers are also featured.
TAKE A HIKE: Former Army football captain Mike Viti expects to be at the game after hiking from Washington state, a 4,414-mile trek that began in April. His goal was to stress awareness for America’s fallen soldiers in war since 9/11. The hike is expected to end Saturday at the same stadium where his Army team lost to Navy 38-3 in 2007.