It’s a game with a 127-year-old history. Two of the nation’s premier service academies, West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy face off this Saturday in a rivalry more amicable than it has been in past years.
The Army-Navy football rivalry almost ended before it became a tradition. In 1893, the Navy defeated the Army in a 6-4 contest that ended with massive brawls. The animosity nearly peaked with a duel between an admiral and a general! After six years without a matchup, President William McKinley reinstituted the game, allowing for the gridiron rivalry to build for years to come.
In the 118 years since, Army-Navy games intertwined with our nation’s foreign and diplomatic affairs. In the wake of World War I, the game was scrapped in 1917 and 1918. Its return in 1919 brought 45,000 spectators and an honorary group of wounded soldiers to watch Navy’s 6-0 victory. During World War II, attendance for the 1942 game was restricted to people who lived within 10 miles of Annapolis, where the game was held instead of a metropolis like New York City or Philadelphia. 1963’s game was pushed from November 30th to December 7th, following the assassination of JFK.
In 2017, the Army and Navy football teams are channeling their respective histories through their uniforms. Just this week, the Army released their 2017 get-up, an all-white ensemble that “tells the story of the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and their birth in the winter warfare of World War II.” The Navy’s uniforms are Blue Angel-inspired, including the Blue Angel insignia and a number font “inspired by the numbers on the tail of the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft that the Blue Angels fly.
On the gridiron, it’s expected to be a competitive game of football this year. Navy rolled through their early schedule and flirted with a Top-25 ranking before falling to tough opponents in November. They’ll take the field in Philadelphia Saturday with hopes to rekindle a winning streak against Army. Prior to 2016’s 26-17 victory by the Army, Navy had won 14 games in a row, dating back to 2001.
It’s likely going to be a tight affair. West Point boasts an 8-3 record with victories in six of their last seven games. They were also selected to play San Diego St. on December 23rd in the Armed Forces Bowl. Their run-dominant offense will feature quarterback and leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw and an outfit of talented running backs including Darnell Woolfolk, Kell Walker, and Andy Davidson.
Navy will be attacking with a rush-heavy offense, too. Quarterback Zach Abey has totaled over 2000 yards of total offense this year, and he’ll be getting help from the dynamic running back Malcolm Perry. Described as an X-Factor, Perry is averaging 8.9 yards per rushing attempt and a whopping 25.1 yards in the instances where he’s caught the ball. His 10 offensive touchdowns trail only Abey.
Both teams are filled with grit and grind, and if it mirrors the recent years, it’ll be decided by a touchdown or less. With hard-hitting attacks, and years of competitive history, we’re not expecting these uniforms to look as fresh after 60 minutes of football Saturday.
Watch the game at 3 pm EST/12 PST this Saturday on CBS.