The sport of college football is built upon its history and tradition. Each week during the season, FootballMatters.org will take a look at some of the history behind some of the upcoming weekend’s top games. There is only one FBS game this weekend, so we will focus solely on the historic Army-Navy game.
#25 Navy vs Army, Saturday, December 10, 3:00 pm ET, CBS at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
All-Time Series: Navy leads 60-49-7 over Army.
First Played: 1890
College football was made for games like the one that takes place each year between the United States Military Academy (aka Army) and the U.S. Naval Academy (aka Navy). The pageantry, history, legacy, and sheer importance of the game set it apart in the college landscape. Bill the Goat, the Army Mules, and the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy all play into the heritage of this contest. Players such as Joe Bellino, Roger Staubach, Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis, and Pete Dawkins have all laid it on the line in this game. While many college players aspire to continuing their career at the pro level, for the vast majority of men who will suit up this Saturday, they will have a higher calling.
Since 2009, the game has enjoyed its own slate on the college football calendar as the last game played in the regular season. For much of the early part of the 20th century, the academies were two of the most prolific programs with four National Championships and five Heisman Trophy winners between them. These days, the schools play mainly for inter-academy bragging rights and Navy is currently riding a 14-game winning streak into the annual matchup. The Black Knights will look to play the role of spoiler against their bitter rivals this year, while the Midshipmen hope to cap off a season that finds them going to a bowl game and ranked in the top 25. Notable games include:
December 2, 1893 — Worden Field, a large, grass field located on the campus of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, was the site of the third meeting between the Midshipmen and the then Cadets. The game was a very low-scoring affair, one in which Navy ultimately prevailed 6-4. However, an interesting bit of football history was made on that day. Future Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves wore what is widely considered the first football helmet during the game. A terror on both sides of the ball, which earned him the lifelong nickname of “Bull,” Reeves was advised by a Navy doctor that another kick to his head could result in “instant insanity” or even death. An Annapolis shoemaker was commissioned to make him a helmet made out of leather. Admiral Reeves would return to his alma mater in 1907 and serve as the team’s Head Coach guiding the Midshipmen to a 9-2-1 record.
November 27, 1926 – The contest between the two academies in 1926 was held in Chicago and served as the national dedication of historic Soldier Field. The hallowed stadium was to serve for all time as a monument to all the American servicemen who had fought for their country in World War I. The game itself would feature an even matchup between the two teams, as Navy came into the game undefeated and Army’s only blemish came earlier in the season against Notre Dame. Over 100,000 fans were in attendance for this titanic clash; when the final whistle blew, both teams were locked in a 21-21 tie. It would be Navy’s only “non win” of the season and the Midshipmen would go on to earn a share of the National Championship in Head Coach Bill Ingram’s first season with the team.
December 1, 1945 – In the history of college football, a number of games have earned the title of being called the “Game of the Century.” The 1945 clash between the two service academies became the latest inheritor of that title. Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia (a frequent site of this game) was the host for what would turn out to be an epic game. The Cadets, under the legendary Red Blaik, were at the height of their powers. In their backfield was the fabled tandem of Mr. Inside, Doc Blanchard, and Mr. Outside, Glenn Davis. Army came in ranked #1 in the nation and Navy #2. All the trappings were in place for this to be a truly history-making game. President Harry Truman was in attendance to see the Cadets jump out to a massive 20-point first quarter. It was a lead they would not relinquish on their way to a 32-13 win. The team would be named National Champions and Blanchard was named the Heisman winner.
December 7, 1963 – Rarely has a game been more of a cultural touchstone than the contest between Army and Navy in 1963. During one of the most tumultuous times in our country’s history, the Army-Navy Game served as an escape for the entire nation. Shortly after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy urged the schools to play the game as it was speculated that it would be cancelled. Originally scheduled for November 30, the game was rescheduled to December 7 – the 22nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. A crowd of 102,000 packed the stands at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium – which would be renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium in 1964 – to witness an emotional back and forth game between the two schools. On one sideline was Navy signal caller and future College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Roger Staubach; on the other, future Army Sports Hall of Famer Rollie Stichweh. Army led off the game with a touchdown drive, one in which the first usage of instant replay on television took place. Staubach and Navy came roaring back and were leading the game 21-15 late in the fourth quarter. After recovering an onside kick, Army led by Stichweh – who would go on to serve as a Captain with the 173rd Airborne and a five-year tour in Vietnam – drove to the Navy two-yard line. Crowd noise kept Army from getting a play off as time expired preserving the win for Navy. Staubach would win the Heisman Trophy and serve out his service in the Navy before joining the Dallas Cowboys.