The Significance Of San Jose State

The Navy football team has been here before. A season on the brink arrives at an intersection point with the San Jose State Spartans. A bowl bid is anything but guaranteed. However, a win on Saturday against the men from San Jose will create the sense that something about this season has been restored. Navy will then need to affirm that restoration in November. It's crunch time for the Midshipmen.


NAVY, SAN JOSE STATE, AND A SEASON ON THE BRINK

The Navy football program – not just this year’s team – comes face to face with a moment of real and symbolic significance this Saturday against the San Jose State Spartans.

The Midshipmen have made a bowl game in each of the last 11 seasons... except one. That’s right: Navy has made a bowl game each season since 2003, creating and then solidifying the revival of college football in Annapolis. What Paul Johnson started, Ken Niumatalolo continued. The service-academy reign of the Midshipmen has been almost unceasingly glorious.

Almost.

Over the past 11 years, there was one season in which the Midshipmen fell short. The 2011 season just happened to be an autumnal slog in which Navy could not find the measure of consistency and clutch playmaking needed to earn a postseason invite. A program that, from 2003 through 2010, had usually been able to work its way out of trouble in a series of close games suddenly ran dry. The instincts and tendencies that had so constantly worked their way to the surface – in all three phases of football – just didn’t reappear. The 2011 season was a reminder that no matter how reliable and familiar a winning feeling might be, each new year requires the ability to perform and achieve anew. Memories of past conquests, visualizations of previous successes, certainly increase the likelihood of present-day prosperity. However, they never guarantee new riches. They always – always – have to be earned.

This bit of background brings us to San Jose State.

Which team officially and finally knocked Navy out of the postseason, dashing the Midshipmen’s bowl hopes in 2011? Why yes, that would be San Jose State. On November 19, 2011, Navy took a 24-20 lead in the third quarter but could not score a single fourth-quarter point. San Jose State walked away with a 27-24 win that pushed Navy’s record to 4-7, out of bowl contention. The Midshipmen beat Army, of course – that’s what they always do these days – but that had to serve as the equivalent of Navy’s bowl game that season. There was no trip to Texas or California in late December.

Three years later, Navy isn’t playing San Jose State in late November, with a bowl squarely on the line. However, Navy’s season has been choppy enough that if the Midshipmen can’t beat the Spartans this weekend, a bowl bid will very much be in jeopardy. This is a game Navy definitely has to win if it wants to be optimistic about a bowl bid. San Jose State again stands in the way.

Many of today’s players weren’t active when Navy lost to San Jose State in 2011. Yet, a reminder of the one big setback from the past 11 years of Annapolis football should be more than enough to motivate the 2014 Midshipmen when they take the field at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

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