Army-Navy Classics: 1989
In the early 1990s, Army's superiority to Navy in the realm of placekicking often shifted the outcome of an Army-Navy Game to the West Point column. However, just before the 1990s began, Navy got its kicks in, so to speak. The Meadowlands – not Veterans Stadium – hosted America's most cherished football rivalry in 1989, with Navy trying to break a three-game losing streak in this series. (It's worth noting that while a three-game skid feels so oppressive, Army is on the verge of enduring a fourth straight three-game skid if it loses this upcoming Saturday in Philadelphia.)
With Army leading 17-16 in the final minute, Navy managed to drive the ball to the Army 15, setting up kicker Frank Schenk with a 32-yard field goal attempt from the middle of the field. Remember that in 1989, the hash marks were still wider than they are now, and the goal posts were accordingly wider than they are today. Centering the ball for the kick was an important part of the play, but as Navy would realize a few years later in 1993, a short field goal at the Meadowlands was no sure thing. Whether the ball was centered or not, Schenk still had to withstand the pressure of the moment.
Here's an excerpt from the Navy-themed blog The Birddog on May 7, 2012. In this question-and-answer piece, Schenk reflected on that kick and the context surrounding it. (The order of answers from the original The Birddog post has been changed to provide a more chronological account of events. The questions have been removed from the excerpt in order to provide a seamless running account, in Schenk's exact words.)
Here's Frank Schenk's account of that game, in his own words:
I remember Alton [Grizzard] and Mike Burns, who had a bum ankle, made some amazing plays to move us down the field. I had a feeling it would come down to a field goal and it did.
What people don't remember (except for my teammates!) is that the game before I missed a 21 yard field goal in the final seconds at Delaware. It was a chip shot and I missed it. I was 3-for-4 on field goals that day. The one I missed cost us the game. We lost the game 10-9. You are only as good as your last kick! So, when I made the kick to beat Army it was a huge relief in more than one way. That Army game was our only victory against Air Force or Army – we ended up 1 – 7 against them in my four years.
I was thinking about my normal routine. When I missed the kick at Delaware, I didn't follow my routine. The Delaware coach called time out after I lined up. For some reason, I stayed in the center of the field instead of running back to the sideline. That wasn't my routine. Normally, the kicking routine starts by running onto the field from the sideline. The routine is: you run onto the field, take your mark and steps, head down and follow through. It's the same as a baseball player stepping into the batter's box, a golfer's pre-shot routine, or a basketball player shooting a free throw. In the Army game, I followed my routine. When Army's coach called time out, I went back to the sideline and then executed my routine. Coach U. (Navy head coach Elliot Uzelac) had some words with me. Thankfully, that kick went much better than the Delaware kick.
Navy's kicking game has endured a number of rough spots in recent years. If the Midshipmen have to kick a game-deciding field goal this Saturday, Frank Schenk offers a reminder that the kicking game hasn't always hurt Navy in this storied series.
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