Army Enters Army-Navy Game in Unfamiliar Role -- Favorite

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Cadet Kelvin Hopkins Jr., the United States Military Academy quarterback, fakes a handoff to running back Cadet Andy Davidson, during the  game against Duke University at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, Aug. 31, 2018. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Brian Stephenson)
Cadet Kelvin Hopkins Jr., the United States Military Academy quarterback, fakes a handoff to running back Cadet Andy Davidson, during the game against Duke University at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, Aug. 31, 2018. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Brian Stephenson)

For the first time in 22 years, Army football enters its annual matchup against Navy with momentum -- and a national ranking.

It's quite a turn of events after the Midshipmen recently won 12 straight against the Black Knights.

Now Army has won two in a row, and this year has ascended to No. 22 in the AP poll. In the past two matchups in which either team was ranked, the ranked team has won the game.

Army football head coach Jeff Monken said he expects the 119th playing of America's Game to be a close battle between two teams that both rely on the triple-option running attack.

"They're a talented team, a well-coached team and a tough team. They are very much like we are. These are two very evenly matched teams," Monken said.

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Last year, Navy lost on a last-second missed field goal, when kicker Bennett Moehring narrowly missed wide right. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said he has no qualms about putting Moehring in the same situation.

"If we are in the exact same situation, I'll do the exact same thing," Niumatalolo said after Thursday's practice. "I actually hope we're in the same situation, because I know he's going to make it."

Army (9-2) is riding a seven-game win streak and is headed to the Armed Forces Bowl, where they will face Houston. It's rare territory for the Black Knights, who have won nine games in consecutive seasons for the first time since the national championship seasons of 1945 and 1946.

After defeating Air Force last month, a win over Navy would give Army the Commander-in-Chief's trophy in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.

This year's team has gotten there with a bruising run game. Army is second the nation in rushing with more than 300 yards per game, and has scored 37 touchdowns on the ground. Senior Darnell Woolfolk leads the way with 14 rushing touchdowns.

Dale Pehrson, Navy's defensive coordinator, praised the team's running attack.

"They're satisfied with three, three-and-a-half yards at a time, [then] go for it on fourth down. So they're going to make it a long game," Pehrson said.

Navy stumbles into the matchup at 3-9, but maintains an edge in the all-time series, 60-51-7.

They've had particular success in recent years when playing Army at Lincoln Financial Field, where Saturday's game will take place: Navy is 10-1 at the venue.

Monken said his team will be wary of Navy's ground game as well. It's led by junior Malcolm Perry, who put up 250 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries last year. He has more than 1,000 rushing yards this year.

"Perry carved us up last year like the Thanksgiving Day turkey," Monken said.

President Donald Trump will be in attendance, the first time the sitting president has attended since Barack Obama in 2011, when the game was played at FedEx Field. Trump also attended the December 2016 game in Baltimore, Maryland as president-elect.

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