Seven senior classes have graduated from the Naval Academy without ever experiencing a loss to Army. On Saturday, the Midshipmen will lean on a freshman quarterback to extend that streak to eight.
Blowouts have littered the storied rivalry as Navy has dominated the series winning ten in a row. However, last year, West Point made it close only losing to Navy by six. It was the closest the Black Knights have come to knocking off the Midshipmen in ten years.
Army (2-9) and Navy (7-4) will kickoff at 3 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia with more than just bragging rights on the line this year. Both teams beat the Air Force Academy earlier this season meaning the winner of Saturday's game will win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. The trophy is given to the service academy with the best head-to-head record amongst the three.
The typical pageantry will surround Saturday's matchup as the rivalry returns to Philadelphia after the two teams played in Washington D.C. in 2011. Before kickoff, both services will execute flyovers of the stadium and the Army's Golden Knights and Navy's Leap Frogs parachute teams will land on the field.
The White House has not yet confirmed if President Obama will attend this year's game. He attended last year and completed the tradition of watching the first half on one side, crossing the field at halftime, and watching the second half with the other service.
As for the game, Army senior quarterback Trent Steelman has walked off the field three times as the losing starting quarterback. On Saturday, he will become only the second quarterback to start four games in what will be the 113th meeting between the two service academies.
Army enters Saturday's matchup again as the underdog as Navy will be going to a bowl game while Army has won only two games. However, Army's win against Air Force has the Black Knights confident this could be their year.
"We didn't win much, but we won just enough to keep [the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy] on the table,' Army coach Rich Ellerson said.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said the records don't matter when these two rivals meet.
"Whether both of us were 11-0 coming into this game or both of us were 0-11, it doesn't really matter,' Niumatalolo said.
Army features the leading rushing offense in the country, averaging 370 yards per game with Steelman orchestrating an attack that also features junior running back Raymond Maples and sophomore fullback Larry Dixon.
Steelman and Maples have both rushed for over 1,000 yards in what has been a disappointing season for the Black Knights. Ellerson hoped to see continued progress with his program after taking the team to its first bowl game in 2010 following a 25-year drought. However, a win Saturday would erase any disappointment and make the 2012 campaign a resounding success.
While Army is starting a senior at quarterback with four years of starting experience, Navy is starting a freshman, or what Midshipmen call a plebe. Freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds will have to overcome the jitters of his first Army-Navy game and the pressure that surrounds it.
Navy has seen their fortunes change this season since Niumatalolo chose to start Reynolds. The team is 5-1 since he took over Navy's offense. Niumatalolo turned to his freshman to lead the team back against Air Force. Reynolds has started since.
Navy senior slotback Gee Gee Greene serves again as Navy's big play threat accumulating 750 rushing yards this season. He and sophomore fullback Noah Copeland have developed a chemistry with their freshman quarterback in executing the triple option rushing attack.
Opposed to previous years, Reynolds offers Navy's offense more flexibility as he's more of a threat than previous quarterbacks since Navy switched to the triple option offense that is dominated by the running game. Reynolds has thrown for eight touchdowns this season.
Army's hope for the upset my lie with their defense and their ability to stop the triple-option attack. Against Air Force, Army's defense held their offense, which also runs the triple-option, to only 103 rushing yards in their 41-21 win.
Even though they've lost ten straight, Ellerson and Steelman are confident this is Army's year.
"We expect to win,' Ellerson said. "We've got a plan, and we expect to be successful.'
The service academies share a tradition after every football game. Each team stands at attention for the playing of the other's alma mater. The loser's is played first followed by the winner.
In his fourth try, Steelman wants to help lead the Black Knights to a win and finally get to hear his alma mater played after the Naval Academy's.