For one Saturday during the college football season, fans get the privilege of witnessing the game at its finest. Climate change, terrorism, the economy…for a few hours, none of those matter. The traditional rivalry between the Cadets of West Point and the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy officially ends the college football season. And, it allows us the opportunity to see college football at its finest. On this Saturday, we truly are all winners.
Annually, the trophy goes to the winner of the series among the three major service academies – Army, Navy, and Air Force. After a year off, Navy regains the trophy by virtue of its 21-17 victory over Army on Saturday. Along with winning the Commander-in-Chief Trophy, the Midshipmen players and coaching staff will receive an official invitation to the White House.
The record-breaking Navy quarterback rushed 21 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns. His 58-yard TD run in the first quarter gave the Midshipmen an early lead. His second TD gave Reynolds 85 for his career, a record that may stand for quite a few years. Reynolds completed 6-of-14 passes for another 113 yards and a touchdown to account for all of Navy’s scoring on the day. More importantly, the 5-11, 195-pound senior became the first quarterback in the history of the rivalry, which dates back to 1890, to go 4-0. Reynolds will leave the Naval Academy with a 31-13 career record (Navy does play Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28) having never lost to Army.
Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo
The Navy head coach is now 8-0 against Army. Niumatalolo tied the legendary Earl “Red” Blaik for the most wins in the Army-Navy series. The winningest coach in the history of the Naval Academy, Niumatalolo’s success has offered him an opportunity that he will, at least, look into. He is set to visit BYU, where former head coach Bronco Mendenhall left to take the job at Virginia. Niumatalolo, who grew up in Hawaii, went on a two-year mission after his freshman year at the University of Hawaii.
Helmets & Artists
Players and fans were treated to some of the most unique helmets ever worn in a college football game. Navy players wore one of seven different hand-painted helmets, each with one of seven ships that make up the U.S. Naval Fleet. Army countered with 17 different helmets. The Army helmets represented the 17 different branches of the Army that cadets can enter after they leave West Point.
The Army Football Program
Head coach Jeff Monken, who took over at Army prior to the 2014 season, truly believes that his program is improving and closing the gap on Navy. The Black Knights performance on Saturday proved it. Army QB Chris Carter hit Edgar Poe with a 39-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes left in the first half to give the Knights a 17-14 halftime lead, their first since 2009. Army had several chances to get in position to take the lead but just couldn’t make it happen. Early in the fourth quarter, kicker Daniel Grochowski missed a 29-yard field goal. Carter fumbled the ball away at the Navy 34-yard line, and then Army threw two late interceptions that preserved the win for Navy. Still, Monken’s Black Knights battled.
The United States of America
Upon graduation from West Point and Annapolis, some of our nation’s finest young men and women will serve our country in a number of different capacities. All military academy graduates must serve a five-year stint in their branch. Reynolds, for example, has chosen Naval Intelligence as his career path. No matter their choice, each and every one of these individuals chooses to put our nation above all else. Our glorious country wins as a result.
The Finest 5 Minutes In College Football
During the 2015 college football season, we have seen incredible plays. Michigan State’s win over Michigan on a fumbled punt snap. Miami’s eight-lateral kickoff return to beat Duke. Alabama running back Derrick Henry’s Heisman Trophy season leading the Tide to the College Football Playoff. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is doing the same for the Tigers. There are still plenty of highlights to come this bowl season, but the absolute best five minutes in college football year in and year out happens just after the final horn sounds declaring the end of the Army-Navy rivalry.
Players from both teams gather near the sidelines to sing each Academy’s alma mater. The loser’s anthem is sung first followed by the winners. The cheers are loud, and the tears are real. Some will sing the alma mater for the final time. Others will have to wait until next year, but for five minutes we get to see true warriors engage in something special before they go on to battle for us and something much more important.