The 123rd edition of the annual Army Black Knights-Navy Midshipmen storied football rivalry will be played Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Eagles.
And the game-week antics were on full display this week as a Naval Academy press release reported that some “spirit” had been delivered to West Point.
“The United States Naval Academy can confirm that on Dec. 5, 2022, at 11:59 a.m. EST, midshipmen from the Class of 2023 successfully conducted an air-to-ground spirit mission over the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York,“ the press releases stated. “Twelve delivery passes dropped ‘Beat Army’ and ‘Fly Navy’ leaflets, along with ping pong balls, over Army West Point’s ‘The Apron.’”
Navy hasn’t played in three weeks — its last game was a 17-14 win against Central Florida — but had a chance to rest players. Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said they structured the three weeks so the team would peak at the right time. Not too early nor too late.
“Not be beat up before we get to the game but also be pad-ready … we were playing really well before the byes, and so that was my one concern, do you lose some of your rhythm,” he said at a press conference this week. “We took it and made the most of it. Used the rest, try to recover, try to get the guys back, try to get mended a little bit.”
Like all West Point-Annapolis matchups, the game outcome can be difficult to predict.
“I truly think you can throw everything out that’s happened in the first 11 games of the season when you go into this one,” Army head coach Jeff Monken told CamVetsMedia/Ken Kraetzer Media on game media day.
Monken’s regard for the game was palpable, saying the intensity displayed from both sides is unmatched.
“I’m just so thrilled to be a part of this team and to be able to be a competitor in this game,” Monken said. “It’s a great game. It’s the greatest rivalry in sports.”
And Army (5-6) has a competitive team, boasting a self-assured defense led by All-American outside linebacker Andre Carter II.
“Obviously, Carter is a big-time player … you don’t see too many guys 6-foot-7, 265,” Niumatalolo said.
Last year, Carter was the first Army player to be named to the AP All-American team in 31 years. In his first collegiate start against Georgia Southern, Carter recorded a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
“They’ve got good players … very well coached … guys are sound, they’re fundamentally sound, they run to the ball,” Niumatalolo said. “They do everything right.”
But the primary battle in this showdown could be Navy’s defense versus Army’s running game. Navy (4-7) can bring it on the D-side of the ball but will have to be stout as Army averages 304.4 rushing yards per game, second-best in the country.
“They do a really good job on defense…against the run, they’re one of the top rushing defenses in the nation,” Monken said. “The last couple of weeks just how they’ve really, really played well against Notre Dame and against Central Florida. Two really good football teams. So it’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us.”
The Black Knights run the option, triple option to be exact. So does its opponent. Niumatalolo said defensive coordinator Brian Newberry has great ideas and understands the option well.
“Sometimes, you look at Coach Newberry’s stuff, and it might look like chaos and mayhem,” Niumatalolo said. “There’s a method to his madness … that guy’s just running around over there, lined up over here for no reason. There’s great detail in it, but gives you the illusion that it’s mayhem and chaos.”
With stellar defenses and option-running, the field will be small and the possessions few, reducing the scoring opportunities. 20-13, it could go either way.Read comments