December 11, 2011
By Rob McIlvaine
LANDOVER, Md. — Twice the 112th showdown between the Black Knights and Navy was tied, and it looked close all the way into the fourth quarter, but Army couldn’t prevent the midshipmen from scoring two field goals, making the final score 27-21.
Not even President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden or a country musician could turn the high tide of Navy which left with its 10th consecutive win in the academy rivalry.
But Army did capture its first rushing title since 1998. Sophomore running back Raymond Maples had 984 yards rushing going into the game, only 16 shy of posting the 15th 1,000-yard season in Army history. He achieved his goal and more during the game with a total of 18 yards in the first quarter, giving him a total of 1,002 yards.
“It was a good game,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Myer, originally from San Antonio, Texas, who attended the game from where he’s stationed at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. He teaches, mentors and coaches the young cadets and preps them for military life.
“It was nice and tight up until the fourth quarter, obviously, and we just turned the ball over too much and that’s what hurt us all year, turnovers,” Myer said. “But I think we could have done better, if we held onto the ball a little more. That was our biggest fault,” he said.
“Defense played a great game, better than their previous games, but as a team, if we’re not working together as a team then it doesn’t matter what side is doing better than the other, it’s all about the team,” said Myer.
OBAMA TOSSES COIN
Six Army cadets stood at mid-field with the colors as the Naval Academy Combined Men’s and Women’s Glee Club and Gospel Choir, under the direction of Aaron Smith, sang the National Anthem. The entire stadium joined in and cheered as the song ended.
Both Obama and Biden attended the game and took part in the coin flip to kick off the classic game that was first played in 1890 on a bet between a cadet and a midshipman. The commemorative gold coin featured the likeness of the late President Ronald Reagan. Obama tossed the coin; Army called tails; won and elected to receive.
“Thank you, Mister President,” said the ref as the president shook hands with the players and walked off the field and was interviewed by CBS newscasters on the air.
With the sun starting to dip behind the stadium, casting a shade across the field, the game began under sunny skies and a temperature of 45 degrees with nine to 16 mph winds from the north-northwest — a good omen for both teams who prefer to keep the ball on the ground rather than airing it out.
The teams took the field at 2:50 p.m. with Army’s Scott Williams, #10, back deep. He received the ball and ran to the 26-yard line. Quarterback Trent Steelman, #8, started rolling up the field with Maples carrying the ball to the 43.
But trouble kept plaguing Army.
They made their 20th fumble of the year in the first quarter.
Just minutes later, Navy made a touchdown and scored the extra point.
After getting the ball, Navy held and began proving again their dominance on the field.
But then Army QB Steelman, a junior class member, ran 34 yards for Army’s first TD and Alex Carlton, a senior, made the extra point.
Things were looking good during the second quarter.
Army sacked Navy’s QB Kriss Proctor for a loss of 8 yards. They punted 35 yards, and Army got the ball at the Navy 49-yard line, but Navy forced a fumble by Jabaree Tuani and recovered. A few plays later and Navy fullback #39 Alexander Teich banged out 10 yards and scored, with the following extra point good.
Army got close with Raymond Maples making a 13-yard carry to the 14 where he was tripped up by Navy. After Malcolm Brown carried Army to the 5, they line up again, and he runs it in. The extra point by Carlton was good, tying the game 14-14.
Army coach Rich Ellerson said, “This is going to be a heck of a game. We’re going to come back and play hard and have fun,” he said to a sideline reporter, as the Black Knights left the field for the locker room.
The president switched sides to spend the second half with Army. He walked between a long of line of midshipmen and cadets lining the middle of the field and saluted as he walked between the gray on one side, blue on the other to cheers.
Following the Naval Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, a huge American flag was unveiled by many young people, as the entire stadium joined in to sing along with country musician Lee Greenwood as he sang an inspiring rendition of his song, “God Bless the USA.” When the song ended the chant of “USA, USA, USA, USA” resounded from the stands, as the teams took to the field.
Greenwood’s song was originally released in the spring of 1984, and was played at the Republican National Convention with President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan in attendance.
But the song gained greater prominence during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, and again after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in May 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed.
Navy began with their third touchdown, taking the game to 21-14 in the first few minutes of the third quarter.
But a 25-yard pass from Steelman to Brown and Carlton’s extra point tied the game at 21 with nine minutes and 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We worked for 10 years to get this game here,” said Daniel Snyder, Washington Redskins owner. “We hope to create a new tradition here,” he said to the CBS sidelines reporter.
FATEFUL FOURTH QUARTER
Quickly, Navy got to their 1-yard line, but a huge penalty prevented them from scoring. Jon Teague kicked a field goal giving Navy the go-ahead, 24 to 21.
Following the kickoff, Army’s Scott Williams returned but was hit hard and fumbled. Navy recovered the ball at Army’s 27-yard line.
Teague attempted a 44-yard field goal and made it, taking the lead in the game 27 to 21.
Navy’s defense continued until Army called a timeout at 5:50 p.m. with 4:39 left in the game. Again Army couldn’t move after a running attempt at 4th and seven.
Navy took over at their own 26 but couldn’t run out the clock. After punting, Army got the ball back on their 10-yard line with two seconds remaining.
Steelman’s pass was complete for a 29-yard reception by Davyd Brooks, but the clock ran out with Navy taking their 10th in a row from Army 27 to 21.
“One of the great traditions in all of college football, the vanquished go before their colleagues as the Army’s alma mater is played,” said Nantz.
Afterward, the Army Black Knights went over and stood before the midshipmen as Navy sang their alma mater to cheers from the midshipmen.
Since President Theodore Roosevelt’s first appearance more than 100 years ago at the Army-Navy game, the commander-in-chief’s attendance at the annual clash between the service academies has become a tradition.
It was also Roosevelt who began the tradition of neutrality by a president when, at halftime, he crossed over from one academy’s side to the other to watch the game. Army won that year at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, 11 to 5.
Harry S. Truman attended one game in 1948 when they tied, John F. Kennedy attended the game the first two years of his presidency and Army lost both times, and Gerald Ford attended in 1974 when Army lost.
Bill Clinton, 22 years later, attended the 1996 game and watched Army win 28 to 24. George W. Bush came for the first time in 2001 and watched Army win 26 to 17, and he attended the 2004 and 2008 games with Army losing both times.