PHILADELPHIA -- Navy extended their historic 12-game winning streak over Army in the annual Army-Navy game as snow and rain fell throughout a 34-7 blowout.
Navy sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds led the Midshipmen offense that gashed the Army defense in the first half with long runs building what proved to be an insurmountable 17-0 first half lead over the Black Knights. The Midshipmen extended their lead late in the fourth quarter answering Army’s only touchdown midway through the third quarter with 17 unanswered points.
“It means a lot to the brotherhood as a whole,” said Navy junior right guard Jake Zuzek when asked about the streak of 12-straight wins. “For the program as a whole, and the school as a whole, keeping the streak alive is pretty good.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel joined the Army and Navy service chiefs at Lincoln Financial Field before a crowd of 65,621 soaked, freezing fans. The Navy Blue Angels and Army Apaches completed the traditional flyover before the Midshipmen completed what has become a new Army-Navy tradition – Navy beating Army.
Army’s last win occurred in 2001. President George W. Bush was in his first year in office and Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment” topped the Billboard charts.
Army Coach Rich Ellerson has had five shots to beat Navy, but this could likely be his last as many expect Army to fire Ellerson after his fifth straight loss to Navy and third straight losing season. When asked if he thought he would be fired, Ellerson sounded like a coach resigned to his fate in the post-game press conference.
“That’s not my call but obviously I think I can say we’ve made some progress. But I wasn’t brought in to make some progress. I was brought in to win football games and to beat Navy. I lost to our rival five times so we haven’t had that conversation but I’m a football coach,” Ellerson said.
Ellerson was hired from Cal Poly in 2008. West Point alums thought they had found the coach to finally beat Navy when Ellerson led the Black Knights to a 7-win season and a bowl game in 2010. But the team has won no more than three games in three years since.
“I knew what the job description was and it wasn’t to get close, it was to get into the end zone and we didn’t get into the end zone,” Ellerson said.
The win over Army clinches another Commander-in-Chief’s trophy for the Midshipmen and a trip to the White House as Navy beat it’s other sister service academy, Air Force, 28-10 earlier in the season.
Reynolds finished the game with 144 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns, which set the NCAA single season rushing touchdown record with 29. He was voted the game’s most valuable player.
Army will struggle to beat Navy again in 2014 when the game moves to Baltimore. Navy returns its star quarterback as well as the entire offensive line. Ellerson said this Navy team was the best he’s faced in his five years as Army’s head coach.
Navy built their lead in the first half with two long runs – a 39-yard touchdown run by fullback Noah Copeland and a 47-yard touchdown run by Reynolds. Army’s defense, led by senior captain Jarrett Mackey, provided a couple key stops, but the defense appeared to be worn out by the fourth quarter.
The weather played a part in the game as Ellerson started sophomore A.J. Schurr at quarterback. However, he turned to junior Angel Santiago after two offensive series because Ellerson said Santiago had bigger hands and could avoid fumbles better in the wet weather.
Neither quarterback proved effective as Navy’s defense limited the second leading rushing attack to only 157 yards rushing and 207 yards total offense.
Santiago injected life into the Army squad midway through the third quarter as he scampered into the end zone on a 4-yard run to cap a 71 yard drive to draw the Black Knights back to ten. However, Army couldn’t stop Reynolds on the next drive as Navy extended their lead on the next series with a 34 yard field goal in the wintry mix.
By the fourth quarter the rout was on and most fans had escaped to the concourses to avoid the freezing rain. When the final cannon fired, the teams again sung their alma maters side by side.
However, the two service academies are left answering very different questions about their football programs. Navy has bowl plans to make. Army is left figuring out if Ellerson is the right coach to beat Navy, or if it’s time to look for his replacement.