This year’s Army-Navy game has looked more like a rivalry than it has in quite some time.
Not only do both teams have a lot at stake, but some words exchanged have fueled what has been a relatively docile fire for more than a decade.
“It’s going to be a real big dogfight because they’re playing for a little bit more this year, but so are we,” Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs said. “And the fact that they’ve been saying stuff in the media, that’s just affirming just how much is on the line.”
What Navy perceives as trash talking is actually a rare showing of confidence from an Army team that has five wins, more wins than it has had since 1996. The Black Knights are a win away from a trip to the EagleBank Bowl, the team’s first bowl since 1996.
Army senior receiver Ali Villanueva guaranteed a win on GoBlackKnights.com. Senior defensive tackle Victor Ugenyi said the senior class is looking to turning the program around after it beats Navy and wins its bowl game. First-year head coach Rich Ellerson said his team expected to win the game.
It’s easy to see why Army’s statements seem a little bold. The Black Knights haven’t beaten Navy since 2001 and have scored more than 20 points just once during the seven-game losing streak. Navy has only scored fewer than 30 once in that time. Navy has defeated Army by an average of 29 points, and last year’s 34-0 shellacking marked the first shutout in the series since 1978.
Navy hasn’t lost to either Army or Air Force since 2002 and has won the Commander-in-Chief Trophy outright for the past six seasons.
“Winning the Commander-in-Chief Trophy is kind of becoming a tradition here and we want to keep the thing rolling,” Dobbs said. “It’s just exciting to have our name as one of the classes to have the most wins against service academies. That’s definitely an honor and something that a lot of guys will want to keep.”
Navy is coming off a difficult loss to Hawaii two weeks ago, but still has its goals intact. Coach Ken Niumatalolo has said many times that Navy strives to win the Commander-in-Chief Trophy and go to a bowl game. The Midshipmen are one win away from their seventh outright Commander-in-Chief Trophy and will face Missouri in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 31.
If the Midshipmen win out, they would have 10 wins, matching their winningest season since 2004.
“We took [the Hawaii loss] to heart and we tried to downplay how bad it hurt,” Dobbs said. “[Niumatalolo] wanted us to just get over it and you know, focus on Army. But in the back of our minds it was just a devastating loss. We’re just thinking about the opportunities that we could have had… We want to get that taste out of our mouths.”