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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Marc LawrenceNavy over Army by 3

We were all set to use the phrase “A tradition unlike any other” to
preview the 120th meeting between Army and Navy, but were told
it had been trademarked by the Augusta National Golf Club to be used
strictly for promoting The Masters Tournament. So, law-abiding citizens
that we are, we’ll just start off with “A rivalry rich in history, tradition and
pride.” Those three things are about all Army has to play for today after
a 52-31 loss at Hawaii two weeks ago ensured the Black Knights would
fi nish with a losing record and fail to go bowling – not exactly what head
coach Jeff Monken envisioned after starting the 2019 season on a 21-5
SU winning run, including bowl wins over San Diego State and Houston.
The culprit was a 5-game mid-season losing skein where Army came up
short against Tulane, Western Kentucky, Georgia State, San Jose State and
Air Force – teams the Cadets would have easily handled the previous two
years – by a grand total of just 34 points. And with Navy knocking off Air
Force earlier this season, a win by the Midshipmen here means they will
take possession of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy currently residing at
West Point. The Middies put the wraps on a successful “mission season”
by earning an invite to this year’s Liberty Bowl and a No. 21 ranking in
the AP Top 25. To celebrate, Navy is set to take the fi eld in Philadelphia
this afternoon sporting throwback uniforms that pay homage to the
Midshipmen teams of the early 1960s, when RB Joe Bellino (1960) and QB
Roger Staubach (1963) each claimed the Heisman Trophy and the Swabbies
beat Army four straight times. However, after winning 13 consecutive
editions of this game from 2002 until 2015, Navy has lost to the resurgent
Cadets in the previous three meetings. Expect to see a lot of handoffs and
a fast-moving game clock as Navy leads the nation in rushing with 360.8
YPG while the Black Knights rank second with 311.7 YPG. Mids’ head coach
Ken Niumatalolo can thank QB Malcom Perry, recently crowned Offensive
Player of the Year by the American Athletic Conference, for engineering
a complete turnaround from 2018’s disastrous 3-10 effort. From a point
spread standpoint, the underdog in this series is on a 5-0 ATS run while
the Under has bagged the cash for seven straight seasons. The Cadets
are a disturbing 0-13-1 SU in this series with a losing record in contests
in which Navy sports a winning record, but 4-1 ATS the last fi ve years.
Despite its poor fi nish, Army won the stat battle in four of its last fi ve
games, outgaining foes by 138 YPG since Game Seven of the campaign.
And even though the Swabbies have gone 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS this season
with revenge against foes that torpedoed them last year, coach Monken
owns a money-making 12-2 ATS mark versus .750-plus foes. The best news
for Army is the defense won’t have to face another pass-happy attack
like Hawaii’s, which ripped the Knights for a season-high 359 aerial yards
(Navy averaging 103 passing YPG). If you look forward to seeing this game
played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, enjoy it while you can:
the 2021 meeting will shift to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New
Jersey. For now, let’s hope for some snow in Philly on Saturday afternoon
as today’s clash will serve as Army’s ‘bowl game’ for 2019. Navy completes
its “mission season” (a role that the Cadets will assume next year) with
another win to improve to 10-2 – but Army marches home with the cash.

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