Hard to find too many losers in what was easily the best Army-Navy game of the past decade. But thus is life. There are those who fall into the winners section of a gimmicky sports blog post. And then there are those branded as losers, usually unjustifiably. So here it goes.
Jon Teague – What a story of redemption. Navy’s senior kicker got to make amends after struggling through a tough season that included having to kick for his job half through the year. He drilled his first 23-yard kick and then squeezed a 44-yard field goal inside the right upright. Both kicks proved the winning points for Navy. If Teague misses the second, Army could have attempted a long field goal instead of going for it on fourth down on their final drive. Teague’s performance left his coach in tears during the press conference.
Alexander Teich – All season Navy’s fullback pleaded with coach Ken Niumatalolo to return a kick. He got his wish Saturday on the second half kickoff. Teich took the kick 48 yards into Army territory, setting up Navy’s only touchdown of the half. The burly senior also rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Rich Ellerson – Army’s coach has built up West Point’s football program to where Navy doesn’t expect a cake walk anymore. Niumatalolo said this year’s game felt different. What he was insinuating was this year wasn’t a gimme. You could see it in the Navy players’ faces after the game. Teich and the rest of the seniors worried they could have been the senior class to give up the streak.
Ken Niumatalolo – If you are going to give Ellerson credit, then you have to give Navy’s coach equal ink. Since taking over for former coach Paul Johnson, Niumatalolo suffered his first losing season this year, but he continues to win the game that means the most.
Trent Steelman – Army’s quarterback was still suffering through the injuries that have plagued him all season. He limped into the press conference after the game. He still found a way to almost lead Army to the upset. He connected with Malcolm Brown on a beautifully thrown touchdown pass to tie the game in the third quarter. Earlier, Steelman sparked Army’s rally from a 14-point deficit with a 34-yard sprint up the middle for the Black Knights’ first touchdown.
Rivalry – It’s tough to have a rivalry when one side wins ten years in a row. Sure, Army played it close, but like the Army players said after the game, “almost” isn’t good enough. The Midshipmen rubbed salt in the wound chanting “ten more years” after the final gun sounded.
FedEx Field – Predictably it was a nightmare getting into the game for those who attended. Kudos to Redskins owner Dan Snyder for getting the game to the D.C. region, but his stadium’s game operations are some of the worst in the NFL. Army-Navy patrons had to suffer through what Redskins fans do every season. Many fans said the stadium oversold the parking tickets forcing fans to drive all around the stadium to search for an open lot. Bring it back to Philly.
Jacob Drozd – The Army freshman defensive tackle was the one who jumped off sides when Navy lined up to go for it on fourth and inches late in the fourth quarter. Niumatalolo admitted after the game he didn’t plan on hiking the ball and instead call a timeout. Tough one to stomach for the freshman.
Scott Williams – Army’s young kick returner can’t afford to lose a fumble late in the fourth quarter on a kickoff, especially after Navy had capped off a nine-minute drive with a field goal. Lucky for him the Army defense stood tall and only yielded a field goal.
Service parachute teams – Where were you guys? The delivery of the game ball by the Army Golden Knights or the Navy Leap Frogs is one of my favorite parts of the pregame festivities. I arrived in the press box at 12:30 p.m. Did I miss it?