What You Need to Know About Army And Navy Ahead of Saturday’s 119th Annual Showdown

James Nachtigal (Photo courtesy of Goarmywestpoint.com)
James Nachtigal (Photo courtesy of Goarmywestpoint.com)

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The Army-Navy game sits on a Saturday of its own. Right where it should be.

No other Division 1 college football game will be contested on Saturday, leaving the stage to America’s game. It’s a game that all college football fans and Americans can appreciate.

But for those who haven’t followed Army or Navy this season, below is what you need to know in order to get ready to watch Saturday on CBS at 3:00 p.m.

The skinny on No. 22 Army: The Black Knights enter Saturday’s game on a seven-game winning streak and a 9-2 record. Head coach Jeff Monken’s team has built incredible going into the matchup with Navy with their current winning streak and having the last-two games against the Mids. Army’s defense is every bit if not stronger than it’s offense. Offensively, offensive coordinator Brent Davis’ unit ranks second nationally in rushing offense (303 yards per game), while defensively Army ranks among the top-20 nationally in rushing defense (11th), scoring defense 17th) and third-down conversion defense (3rd).

The skinny on Navy: It’s been a struggle unlike any of head coach Ken Niutmatalolo’s 11 season at the helm. Navy (3-9) ended a seven-game skid with a 37-29 victory against Tulsa on Senior Day in Annapolis and lost for the second time on a late two-point conversion two weeks ago in falling 29-28 at Tulane. The Miss rank third nationally in rushing offense (288 yards per game) but have struggled mightily on defense. And opponents are converting over 47% of the time on third down.

Key player for Army: Senior linebacker James Nachtigal 

Nachtigal has led an Army defensive unit that’s only given up 18.7 points per game and allows only 106 rushing yards per game. While he plays linebacker, he makes plays much like a safety leading the team is tackles (73), sacks (5) and forced fumbles (2). He’s the key to defensive coordinator Jay Bateman’s attacking-style unit.

Key player for Navy: Senior quarterback Zach Abey

It’s back where it all started for the Pasadena, MD native. Abey made his first-career start for Navy in the 2016 Army-Navy game but the coaching staff opted to go with Malcolm Perry under center in last year’s loss. Abey has played in short-yardage situations and has scored 39 career touchdowns. More important than turning in eye-popping rushing numbers is taking care of the football against Army’s play-making defense.

What happens: They say throw the records out the window when it comes to rivalry games and that’s largely true. However, I think Army is riding a wave of momentum that isn’t close to cresting anytime soon. Army is a seven-point favorite, which is exactly where I expect this game to fall. Navy will be able to score but Army’s defense has been underrated all season and I think they make enough plays and get enough key stops to win the game. 

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