Army miscues propel Navy to service sweep

For the first forty-nine minutes of the 107th meeting between Army and Navy, the Black Knights' mistake-prone offense managed to forget about its past. In the next seven minutes, they managed to relive it over and over and over again. And as a result, Navy's senior class will never know what it feels like to lose to a service academy foe.

I'm not sure if there is such a thing as an ugly win when the win comes against your arch-rival, but after watching Navy defeat Army 26-14 to capture their 4th consecutive Commander-in-Chief trophy that is about the only phrase I can come up with to describe what I saw. I kept waiting for Navy's offense to break loose for a big play, but it never happened and for the first time in the Paul Johnson-era, Army's defense was not embarrassed by Navy's triple option attack. Quite the contrary, as the Black Knights managed to hold Navy to its second-lowest all-purpose yardage (345) of the season.

If you would have told me before the game that Reggie Campbell and Shun White would only account for 48 total yards and that no Navy rusher would amass over 75 yards on the ground, I would never have guessed that the Mids would have had a comfortable lead at any point in the game.

However, Navy did manage to get a sizeable lead but it took awhile and it also took Navy's defense to be patient with Army's beleaguered offense. Army's offensive strategy worked for a good part of the game. They managed to eat just about every second off the clock in between snaps, while putting together a good mix of conservative passes, fullback dives and even a trick play or two. The result of their efforts was a very manageable 7-point deficit, against a highly favored Navy team, heading into the fourth quarter. And that's when the Army offense that Navy has come to know and love in recent years reared its ugly (or beautiful, depending on your perspective) head.

It took over three quarters for Army to commit a turnover, but when Carson Williams threw an interception with 10:42 left to play in the game, one could hear Navy fans across the world let out a collective sigh of relief. And with that play, Army's offensive self-destruction had begun. This interception led to a Navy field goal. Just under two minutes after getting the ball back, Williams threw another interception – this one was more costly as Navy's Keenan Little returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Now with Navy leading 24-7 and its defense in prevent mode, Army's offense still managed to back peddle – all the way to its own end zone for a safety. Now, thanks to the Tyler Tidwell two-point tackle, the score was 26-7 and the only thing left in doubt was how ugly the game could get. With just over a minute left, there wasn't enough time for it to get Air Force ugly, but personally, I had seen enough. I can only imagine what Army fans must have thought at that point. Thankfully for the Army faithful, Williams threw a touchdown pass with two seconds left in the game to make the final score a more respectable sounding one, 26-14.

So what happens now to these two storied programs which seem to be still headed in different directions?

Well, first, Navy (9-3) gets to sit back and relax as they find out who their opponent will be in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on December 30th. The team's break won't likely be too long as they have plenty to improve upon, especially on offense, if they want to win their 10th game of the season. I highly doubt I will be talking about an ugly Navy win against any of its likely ACC opponents. Without a doubt, after observing this unremarkable performance by Navy, oddsmakers will likely make the Midshipmen at least a touchdown underdog against its bowl game foe.

As for Army (3-9), well, a closer than expected contest against Navy could help convince Bobby Ross and his few supporters that next year could be what this year was supposed to be – that is a major improvement. Maybe their advertising department could even steal a page from Air Force' marketing playbook and come up with a catchy slogan. How about though instead of "Return to Dominance," which Air Force misfired on, Army tries, "Return to the Option," or perhaps, "One Ross Gone, One to go."


The Navy football team takes the field before the Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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