It was a postcard picture type of day, as I made my way to the naval academy. The 24th ranked midshipmen were a home underdog, facing the Memphis Tigers in a crucial AAC conference game. I had been looking forward to this game for weeks. I had never been to the academy, but I was eager to take a tour of the base and then take in the game. The academy sits in the picturesque area of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay. The beauty of the architecture and the history is awe-inspiring.
The stadium itself is full of history and magical moments. You can literally spend hours reading all the plaques from all the classes and various historical pieces. Memorial stadium is small, seating only 34,000. There is not a bad seat in the entire stadium. I was fortunate enough to be in the first row of the upper deck, at midfield. Each and every seat has a chair back, unlike most venue’s across the country. The navy fans are very dedicated, as most served our great country. I met fans from across the country that were in town for homecoming. Many of the Navy season ticket holders live several states away, but still make the trek to most home games. Tailgating in the parking areas surrounding the stadium is home to thousands of fans. I talked to several Memphis fans that were welcomed into these parties.
NAVY FOOTBALL BEGINS
Navy football began in 1879, when William John Maxwell formed a team of academy first-classmen, in which he was the manager, trainer and captain. The team was made up of 15 players, ranging in ages of 14 to 18! The academy’s admission policy at that time was set to allow boys of 14 to enter. On December 11th Navy played Baltimore Athletic Club. The teams played to a 0-0 tie. No teams were permitted in 1880-81. They resumed play in 1882.
FIRST AND ONLY NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Bill Ingram became the head coach at Navy in 1926, arriving from Indiana where he spent three seasons guiding the Hoosiers. Ingram was a football standout for the Midshipmen from 1916-18. The 1926 team finished 9-0-1 and featured two All-Americans. Offensive Tackle and captain Frank Wickhorst was a devastating blocker who paved the way for quarterback Tom Hamilton. That season saw the Midshipmen upset Michigan in front of an estimated 80,000 fans in Baltimore. The 10-0 win set the stage for the season finale with rival Army. The game was the inaugural game at Soldier Field in Chicago and featured 110,000 fans. The game was a fierce battle and ended in a 21-21 tie. Navy shares the 1926 title with Alabama and Stanford.
2007 SEASON A RECORD BREAKER
The 2007 season might well be one of the best in navy football lore. On November 3rd the Midshipmen ended the longest losing streak all-time by one team over another. Notre Dame had defeated Navy 43 straight times! Navy finally ended the drought with a 46-44 triple overtime win in South Bend. That same season, just a week later Navy faced North Texas. Navy defeated North Texas 74-62. The 136 points are the most ever scored in a NCAA division one, FBS football game. The second quarter featured a total of 63 points!
FUN FACTS ABOUT NAVY FOOTBALL
- In 1910 the Navy football team finished 8-0-1. They outscored their opponents 99-0!
- Current head coach Ken Niumatalolo is the All-Time leader in wins, compiling a 73-38 record.
- The Midshipmen played in their first Bowl game in 1923, playing Washington to a 14-14 draw in the Rose Bowl.
- Both Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino won the Heisman trophy, while donning a Navy uniform.
- Navy has 19 players and three coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame. They include, Napolean McCallum, Joe Bellino, Roger Staubach, Chet Moeller and Ron Beagle.
- Keenan Reynolds is widely considered one of the top players to have graduated from the Academy. Reynolds was a four-year starter at quarterback and won the 2016 Sullivan award.
- The Navy band leads a column of Midshipmen onto the field before each home game.
- Navy plebe’s do push ups after every scoring play. They fill the North end zone and do a push up per point.
This trophy was established back in 1972. The winner of the three-way battle between Air Force, Army and Navy is awarded the trophy each year. The Navy-Air Force game is traditionally played on the first Saturday of October. Air Force typically meets Army on the first Saturday in November. The annual Army-Navy game is the last game of the regular season for all FBS schools. Air Force currently leads the competition, winning the trophy a total of 19 times. Navy sits second with 15 wins, while Army has six.
Bill “The Goat” has been the Navy mascot since 1893. The mascot is a live goat and is also represented by a costumed Midshipman. There is also a bronze statue of the goat in the north end zone. For centuries navy ships sailed with livestock to provide sailors with fresh food. These ships often carried goats to eat the garbage and to provide milk and butter. In 1893 a live goat made his debut at the Army-Navy game. The goat named El Cid, brought good luck and a 6-3 victory. He was later anointed as the official mascot.
Over the years, there have been several kidnappings of the Navy goat. The most famous came in 1953, a week before the Army-Navy game. A group of Cadets sneaked onto the base and kidnapped Bill. The Cadets stashed the goat in the back of a convertible, however their cover was blown when they stopped at a gas station and the goats horns shredded the convertibles top! The Cadets eventually made it back to West Point, where they presented the goat to other Cadets at a dinner time pep rally. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was among those who ordered the goat to be returned.
The Army-Navy series began in 1890. Navy leads the all-time series 60-49-7. The game is perhaps the most traditional and enduring rivalries in all of college football. The game has been nationally televised by CBS and ABC since 1984. Instant replay made it’s debut in the 1963 game.
The Navy-Notre Dame series dates back to 1927. The series has been played every year since, making this the longest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football. The Irish lead the all-time series 76-12-1. They will resume the series on November 5th in Jacksonville, Florida. The game has never been played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, due to it’s relatively small size.
Navy quarterback Will Worth rushed for a career high 201 yards and three touchdowns, in leading the Midshipmen past Memphis 42-28. Worth also tossed two key touchdown passes, insuring the win. The performance by Worth, overshadowed a strong performance by Tiger quarterback Riley Ferguson who passed for 333 yards and two scores. The Tigers opened the scoring on their first possession. Ferguson found Anthony Miller on a 33 yard strike, for a quick 7-0 lead. Navy responded with an 11 play drive to tie the score at 7-7. Tony Pollard then returned the ensuing kick-off 100 yards to put the Tigers back up 14-7. Navy then took control of the half scoring twice, to take a 21-14 halftime advantage. The second half was all Navy as they wore down the Tigers with a powerful running game that churned time off the clock. The win extended the Midshipmen’s home winning streak to 14 games, and moved them to #22 in the polls.