WEST POINT, N.Y. — Under a soupy fog that blanketed the field at Michie Stadium, Army beat rival Navy 15-0 and moved toward securing this year’s Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
Whether Army takes back ownership of the trophy depends on the result of next Saturday’s game between the Black Knights and Air Force, also played here. The Falcons beat Navy 40-7 in October, making next weekend’s meeting a winner-take-all cap to the regular season.
This year’s game, the 121st in the series, was supposed to be played in Philadelphia, which has hosted six of the past eight games and 89 meetings overall, including in every year from 1945-82.
However, due to state restrictions on occupancy at outdoor events that would have prevented the entire Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen from being in attendance, the two academies decided to move the game to Michie Stadium by virtue of the Black Knights being designated the “home team” in this year’s matchup.
Here are three takeaways from Army’s win:
Army wins fourth in five tries in once-lopsided rivalry
Navy won 14 straight against Army from 2002-15 before the Black Knights snapped the streak with a 21-17 win in 2016, the first of three in a row. While Navy reversed that trend with a convincing 31-7 win a year ago, Army’s win Saturday puts the Black Knights back in control of the series.
The victory also solidifies 2020 as a bounce-back season for Army after going a disappointing 5-8 a year ago. That came on the heels of the program’s best three-year run since dominating college football during and immediately after World War II: Army went a combined 29-10 from 2016-18, winning 11 games and finishing No. 20 in the Amway Coaches Poll in 2018.
The Black Knights are now 8-2 and potentially back in the Top 25 for the fifth time this year. Army’s two losses came against Cincinnati, which is unbeaten and the top-ranked team in the Group of Five, and Tulane.
Navy needs to address offense this offseason
Some of the Midshipmen’s issues on offense can be tied to personnel, specifically to a musical-chairs rotation at quarterback that has prevented the offense from finding a rhythm. With no one option rising to take control of the position, Navy used five different quarterbacks during the regular season.
Freshman Xavier Arline started Saturday and finished with 109 rushing yards on 17 carries. He missed on all four of his pass attempts. Navy finished with 117 yards of total offense and four first downs.
Overall, the Midshipmen entered the weekend ranked 116th in the FBS in scoring. Last year’s team averaged 37.2 points per game, good for 12th nationally.
Looking ahead to Army-Air Force
Unlike Army and Navy, which have played fairly complete schedules during this pandemic year, the Falcons didn’t open play until the first weekend of October and have played just five games, winning three.
In terms of overall health at the end of a trying season, that may give Air Force an advantage.
Another clear advantage comes in time to prepare. Army had an extra week to get ready for Navy, a bone of contention for Niumatalolo heading into Saturday. Now the tables have turned, as Air Force can sit back and devote extra time in preparation while Army quickly turns around for one of the year’s defining matchups.