For the first time in 15 years, Navy was first to sing its alma mater after its game against Army
Story By Deborah Leung Pointed Magazine Staff
Photo’s By Benjamin Rogers Jr Pointed Magazine Staff Photographer
Tradition at the Army-Navy game calls for each team’s players, at the game’s end, to stand in front of their fellow students and sing their alma mater, with the winning team singing second. On Saturday, for the first time since December 2001, Army sang after Navy did.
Army had pulled off a 21-17, come-from-behind victory that ended a series-record 14-game losing streak to Navy. And when the game ended, with Army running out the clock in front of a capacity crowd announced at 71,600 at M&T Bank Stadium a crowd that included President-elect Donald J. Trump thousands of members of the gray-coated Corps of Cadets jumped over the fence to flood the field.
Which, in turn, made for a pretty loud backup chorus.
“I can’t put words to it,” said Edgar Poe, a senior wide receiver who finally learned what it feels like to beat Navy. “It’s surreal. It doesn’t even feel like it’s for real.”
The winning touchdown was a thrilling one: The junior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw scored on a 9-yard run with six minutes to play, putting Army back ahead after it had squandered a 14-0 halftime lead.
Navy still holds a 60-50 edge in the series, which dates to Nov. 29, 1890, and also includes seven ties. And although they were severely short-handed in this game because of injuries to top players, the Midshipmen (9-4) made Army (7-5) earn the victory. Which it did.
“We’ve heard for a long time about the streak and all that,” said Army Coach Jeff Monken, who is in his third season at West Point. “It was good to be part of the team that put that to an end.”
Army’s fumbles helped Navy climb back into the game in the second half, and when Navy quarterback Zach Abey broke three tackles early in the fourth quarter on an option keeper that turned into a swerving, 41-yard touchdown run, the Black Knights trailed for the first time all day.
But Army, suddenly down by 17-14, immediately responded with a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ate up 6 minutes 42 seconds and ended with the touchdown run by Bradshaw, who had thrown an interception and lost a fumble earlier.
“I told the guys to just be prepared they may try to make us do something foolish to draw a flag,” Bradshaw said. “I told them to keep their composure, to protect the ball — to focus on ourselves.”
After Bradshaw scored, a determined Army team held Navy to 6 yards on three plays, forcing a punt. The Black Knights then pushed through for two first downs to end the game.
“We persevered through everything,” Andrew King, an Army senior linebacker, said of the game and the season. “We fought hard, executed, and most of all, we finished.”
Brandon Jackson, a sophomore cornerback, had been killed in a one-car accident after Army’s second game of the season. On Saturday, his mother, Morna Davis, made her first appearance at a game since his death, Monken said. Afterward, she was with the team in the locker room for the celebration.
“To share that victory with her, and for her to see how much she means to these guys, was really special for all of us,” Monken said.
For a half, it seemed as if Army was going to break the losing streak with ease. Just a week earlier, in a 34-10 loss to Temple in the American Athletic Conference championship game, Navy had lost quarterback Will Worth and slotback Toneo Gulley to season-ending foot injuries on the same play.
The damage from that loss seemed to hang over Navy as Army turned an early fumble by Shawn White into a 14-play, 66-yard scoring drive that concluded when fullback Andy Davidson plunged in from the 1-yard line. Later, after a 15-yard Navy punt, Army went ahead, 14-0, as another 1-yard run by Davidson capped an 11-play drive.
As for Trump, he waved to the crowd and pumped his fist as he arrived during the first quarter and then watched the game from two luxury suites, one linked to Army, the other to Navy. At halftime, he appeared on the CBS television broadcast of the game, said he was “absolutely neutral” and suggested that the quality of the game might not be the best but that the spirit was.
After Trump left the broadcast booth, the second half began, and the momentum swung abruptly when Bradshaw quickly lost a fumble at the Army 32. Abey completed a screen pass to White that picked up 16 yards and then muscled into the end zone on a keeper that cut Navy’s deficit to 14-7 less than four minutes into the half.
The Midshipmen picked up a 28-yard field goal by Bennett Moehring and took the lead on Abey’s touchdown run. But Army found a way when it really mattered.
Asked how he felt about ending the streak, Rhyan England, a junior free safety for Army, said, “The biggest thing is relief.”
Poe, his teammate, found himself searching for something beyond the appropriate words after it was all over: his helmet.
But the victory he will have forever.