This article was originally published on December 8, 2003.
After dominating Army again in a 34-6 victory Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, Navy looks forward to the Houston Bowl on Dec. 30.
Army, meanwhile, is looking for a new coach.
The Black Knights fired Todd Berry after an 0-6 start and interim coach John Mumford went 0-7. Army will be carrying the anguish of the history's first 0-13 season and the nation's longest losing streak (15 games) through the long winter. Obviously, their new coach will inherit a team needing a huge confidence boost.
Against Navy, Army played many young players. Quarterback Zac Dahman and leading rusher Carlton Jones are sophomores. Freshman Tielor Robinson shows promise as a running back.
Still, Army needs more good players. Army needs more players like former quarterback Nate Sassaman. Now a lieutenant colonel in Iraq, Sassaman led Army to an 8-3-1 season and a 10-6 Cherry Bowl victory over Michigan State in 1984.
One of that team's most memorable games was a 24-24 tie at Tennessee. Outweighed on both lines by 40 pounds per man, Army rallied behind Sassaman before 104,000 fans in Knoxville.
In an e-mail Q & A with the Times-Herald Record, of Middletown, N.Y., Sassaman said, "I learned as much leadership at Michie Stadium as in the classroom or on the plain of West Point . . . I tell my soldiers before big missions, 'Trust your training, trust your instincts, trust your leadership. It all works together.'"
The Army-Navy game, scheduled for Lincoln Financial Field for 4 of the next 5 years, will always be a great attraction. The 4,000 cadets and 4,000 midshipmen are among the nation's highest-character young people. We know in times of conflict many of them will be on the front lines.
Football is a rallying point for the academies. Army must be more competitive. The problem is, it might take the new coach a couple of years to get the Black Knights on a par with Navy, who cut Army's lead in the series to 49-48-7.
When Army announced in July that it will leave Conference USA after the 2004 season, Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr., superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, said Army is committed to competing at "the highest level."
Right now, however, Army isn't even a good I-AA team.
Navy's Eckel MVP
Navy fullback Kyle Eckel was voted the game's Most Valuable Player in balloting conducted by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. He will be among those honored at the 100th PSWA awards dinner Jan. 26 at the Cherry Hill Hilton.
Eckel, a 5-11, 235-pound junior from Episcopal Academy, rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's special," Eckel said. "[Playing in Philadelphia] was great. We try to do the same thing every week, but this had a little more meaning for me because I got to play in front of my friends and family, and it's Army-Navy. It's bigger than football. I don't know if there's any other game like it."
Said Navy quarterback Craig Candeto: "Kyle has had a great year. He's been the guy inside for us. Sometimes, I'll look back and he'll have two or three guys hanging on him, and he just keeps breaking tackles."