By Joe Juliano All the elements were there for a classic Army-Navy game: the pre-game march-on by cadets and midshipmen, the parachute jumpers from both academies, the flyovers by jets and helicopters, the attendance of President Bush.
There was every element except one - a competitive football game.
Once again, Navy dominated a plucky but overmatched Army squad beginning with its third play from scrimmage, a 65-yard touchdown dash by Shun White, and trounced the Black Knights, 34-0, before a sellout crowd of 69,144 at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Midshipmen (8-4), who have one game remaining in the EagleBank Bowl against an opponent to be determined, posted their seventh straight victory in the 109-game series and now lead 53-49-7.
The more telling statistic is that Navy has outscored Army 274-71 in those seven wins, an average margin of 29 points, which begs the question: Why has this rivalry become so lopsided?
"I don't know," Mids coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We don't really try to evaluate it too much. We just try to take it one game at a time. Army is always there in the back of our minds because they're our rivals but during the season we just think about the game at hand. But we're going to continue to try to do our best to stay ahead of both them and Air Force."
Yesterday marked Navy's record 13th consecutive win over Air Force and Army, and wrapped up its sixth straight Commander-in-Chief trophy.
The Black Knights, who were shut out by Navy for the first time since 1978, finished 3-9 for the second straight season. Second-year head coach Stan Brock said he thinks his team has made progress, despite the look of yesterday's contest.
"I don't think the difference between the two academies is 34 points," Brock said. "I think we're pretty similar in athletic ability. Mentally, Navy is stronger. Maybe that has something to do with me.
"We have a plan in place to build the program. Hopefully, I'm allowed to stick with the plan. We have to continue to get better players ... When you get your butt kicked like that in a rivalry game, you'd be fooling yourself to think that anybody will be pleased."
Army came out wearing camouflage helmets and pants - with the words "Duty. Honor. Country." written on the back of their jerseys - but the ground game yesterday belonged to Navy.
The nation's leader in rushing, the Midshipmen rolled up 368 yards and held a 430-154 advantage in total offense. White gained 148 yards on 13 carries and scored one touchdown rushing and one receiving. Fellow senior Eric Kettani picked up 125 yards in 24 carries with one score.
The most noteworthy play for the Black Knights came at the very end when fullback Collin Mooney gained one yard to become Army's single-season rushing leader with 1,339 yards. Mooney rushed for 54 yards, less than half his average coming in.
"I said earlier in the week it would come down to who executes better, and their defense executed better than our offense," Mooney said.
In reality, the game came down to two big plays in the first quarter.
White, who runs a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, took a pitch from senior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada around the left end, got a big block from wide receiver Tyree Barnes and was gone, scoring just 2 minutes, 52 seconds into the game.
"Coming into the game, Coach wanted me to bust a long run," White said. "I told him if you give me a chance, I could probably take it to the house. I think it was a very important play to get our offense going. From that point on, we were like a steamroller."
On Navy's next possession, a fourth-down snap sailed over the head of punter Kyle Delahooke and rolled into the Mids' end zone. But Army had a punt return on, and Delahooke coolly scooped up the ball, checked for rushers and boomed a punt to the Black Knights 46.
"I think that was the turning point of the game," Niumatalolo said. "I was yelling at him to take the safety, don't give them a touchdown, but he kept his composure and got the punt off."
When it was over, Army stood somberly in front of its band to hear the school's anthem. Navy then dashed over to its corner of the Linc and high-fived as many midshipmen as they could before singing its song.
As for never losing to Army, a beaming Kaheaku-Enhada said, "It's nice. It means we didn't drop the ball."
Mayor Michael Nutter, attending his first Army-Navy game, said the city will be "aggressive in retaining this game because we think it belongs here," in its bid to keep the service academy rivalry in Philadelphia when a new contract begins with the 2010 game.
He also said he doesn't think the poor economic climate puts any one city at a disadvantage.
"The economics that have hit Philadelphia are not unique to this city," Nutter said. "All the other cities across America are experiencing the same thing, so as far as I'm concerned, that's a wash. We start with our history, our tradition, our competitiveness and the package that we can put together.
"We have more hotel rooms in downtown Philadelphia than any other city that's trying to compete against us. I know it's tough economic times but the playing field is actually level on that."
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or email@example.com
PHILADELPHIA - Army's cool new dress code resulted in the same old loss against Navy.
With President George W. Bush in attendance, Shun White ran for 147 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead bowl-bound Navy over Army 34-0 Saturday for its seventh straight win in the storied rivalry between service academies.
Army (3-9) debuted camouflage helmets, pants and uniform numbers, and the backs of their jerseys had the words "Duty. Honor. Country."
The Black Knights' makeover was sharper than their play. Navy (8-4) got a 65-yard TD run from White on the third play of the game and improved to 53-49-7 overall against Army for its biggest lead in a series that began in 1890.
Navy has won 13 straight times against Air Force and Army since 2002, outscoring the programs 441-205 during the streak. The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy remains docked with Navy.
Eric Kettani rushed for 131 yards and a TD for Navy and linebacker Ram Vela returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown with 31 seconds left.
The Mids have already accepted a bid to play in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl on Dec. 20 in Washington, their sixth straight bowl game.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo didn't skip a beat in his first year leading the Mids since Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech. Niumatalolo became the second service academy coach to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy in his first year, joining Navy's George Welsh in 1973.
Some Navy fans held a sign that read: "Congress, bail out Army!"
Army's Collin Mooney gained 1 yard on the final carry of the game to finish with 55 yards rushing and set the program's single-season rushing record with 1,339 yards.
Army scored only three points in last year's 38-3 loss in Baltimore and was shut out in the patriotic series for the first time since a 28-0 loss in 1978.
The series has become increasingly lopsided, often making the pregame pageantry the most memorable part of the day.
Bush was mostly cheered by the crowd of 69,144 at Lincoln Financial Field and heard chants of "USA! USA! USA!" as he walked to midfield for the ceremonial coin toss. On his way, he stopped to kick a football on a tee. The playful boot went about 15 yards.
Bush, attending his third Army-Navy game, gave both teams pep talks and watched each half from a different side in support of both service academies.
No matter the angle, White put on quite a show. The game's MVP quickly put Navy ahead, sprinting 65 yards down Navy's sideline for a 7-0 lead.
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada connected with Tyree Barnes on a 34-yard reception that set up a 23-yard field goal by Matt Harmon for a 10-0 lead.
White was wide open and caught the a pass from Kaheaku-Enhada around the 10, then coasted into the end zone for an 18-yard TD catch that made it 17-0 at halftime.
White, 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, rushed for 138 yards in the first half and went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season.
Army's seniors talked all week about how much it would mean to end their careers with at least one win against Navy. This is easily the most important game for each team every season - more meaningful than any bowl game. With fighter jets roaring over the stadium before kickoff, and cadets and mids standing, bouncing and cheering on a chilly day, it was easy to see how much this rivalry means to both sides.
When Kettani scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter to make it 24-0, the game was all but over. Harmon added a 36-yard field goal in the fourth.
The Black Knights missed two prime chances in the first half to score. The first came after a bad snap and punt from the Mids gave Army the ball on their own 46. Army only gained 3 yards, though, and punted.
Then Pat Mealy broke a pair of tackles and returned a kick 72 yards down to Navy's 27 that electrified the crowd. Again, Army couldn't convert and got nothing on a fake field goal attempt.