Even before the Army game kicks off on Dec. 4, this authoritative blasting of the Scarlet Knights got the Midshipmen into a bowl, the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 30, with the opponent probably being New Mexico or Wyoming of the Mountain West Conference. Navy will play a very beatable opponent in a coastal city that would be very friendly to the Naval Academy football team and its fans. That kind of trip, with a bowl game and—a day later—a New Year's bash in Baghdad-By-The-Bay, will be a very attractive way to cap this 2004 season. Safe to say, the Johnson Boys earned that kind of trip with their A-plus performance against Rutgers.
After trading early touchdowns and before allowing two TDs in garbage time, all Navy did to the Scarlet Knights was pop off a run. Oh, but not just any old run. No, Paul Johnson's team ripped off 47 straight points against New Jersey's state university. That's right: FORTY-SEVEN POINTS IN A ROW! 7-7 became 54-7 in a heartbeat. Who could have thought, after the blowout loss to Tulane, that Navy could be so complete, so thoroughly dominant, and so consistently potent? Who would have thought that the Midshipmen could crush a Rutgers team that had a very realistic chance at going 6-5 in the Big East?
Sure, the Big East is a very poor BCS conference, but it is nevertheless a league whose teams have more material than most of the squads Navy's faced in 2004. For Navy to outscore Rutgers 47-0 over less than 39 minutes of play (from the middle of the first quarter to the first minute of the fourth stanza) is simply astonishing—astonishingly beautiful for a Navy program basking in the glow of a second straight bowl bid. Those five bowl scouts—by their mere presence—seemed to ignite a spark under the whole Navy team. Coach Johnson had to be reveling in the moment after his team's woodshed whipping of Rutgers, but a part of his mind had to be wondering why this kind of amped-up effort couldn't be reduplicated against Tulane and also Notre Dame, in games where—not surprisingly—bowl scouts weren't on hand.
Fortunately, however, with an 8-2 record in tow; the Thanksgiving holiday upon us; and the need to rest up for Army firmly entrenched in the minds of each Navy player, it stands that the Johnson Boys have a lot to celebrate right now.
Forget the fact that they couldn't annihilate most of their opponents—they still won games. Forget the fact that they haven't approached 500 yards rushing very often—they did so Saturday, and finally got that sweet and satisfying taste of totally maxing out as an offense on game day. And disregard the unfortunate but unsurprising loss to the Irish, the Naval Academy's perpetual nemesis—it seems as though that loss has served as a wake up call for the team to be more physical up front, and more urgent as a collective whole when it steps onto the field. The full brigade of Midshipmen in pads—up and down the roster—has become better, not worse; more motivated, not less; stronger, and not weaker, as a result of the Notre Dame loss.
Add it all up, and this team has a chance to win 10 games before it's all said and done. With a win over Army and a bowl victory—a San Francisco treat—Paul Johnson's team will have double-digit W's, an accomplishment that will carry this program forward with even more momentum than it had going into this year.
And when you consider how much buzz there was in Annapolis at the beginning of this season, that's really saying something. Navy football has a lot to be thankful for—and a lot to rest up and prepare for—this Thanksgiving holiday.