The Army-Navy matchup is truly America's Game. It now has the second Saturday in December all to itself and features the best and brightest young men our country produces in a contest showcasing football in its purest form. By the time the Army-Navy game rolls around, no championships (aside from the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy) are at stake, no big-money bowl games are on the line, no pro scouts are crowded into the press box to assess future NFL stars. Instead, young men who will soon place their lives on the line for their country compete for the love of the game in front of an appreciative national audience. It's one of the greatest spectacles in sports, and there's nothing more at stake than pride in a job well done, its competitors a band of brothers who save their hatred for their rivals for the brief moments between the whistles.
To celebrate this weekend's renewal of college football's purest rivalry, here are the greatest moments in Army-Navy history.
Navy 6, Army 4
According to football lore, the 1893 Army-Navy game marked the first use of a football helmet. Future Navy Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves was warned by his doctor prior to the game that another blow to the head could cause "instant insanity" (how's that for a medical prognosis) or even death. An Annapolis shoemaker came to the rescue, fashioning a leather helmet to protect Reeves' noggin. Navy won that year's renewal, the fourth matchup in series history, 6–4.
Army 21, Navy 21
Appropriately enough, Army and Navy used their 1926 matchup to christen Chicago's Soldier Field, a monument to America's World War I servicemen. Both teams were unbeaten — the only blemish on either ledger was Army's tie with Notre Dame — so the winner would be crowned mythical national champion. But there was no winner; the game ended in a 21–21 tie, and Navy was awarded the national title.
Army 23, Navy 7
Army 32, Navy 13
As their comrades were serving overseas, the Cadets and Midshipmen engaged in a two-year struggle for national supremacy. Both seasons, the two teams entered the game ranked No. 1 (Army) and No. 2 (Navy). Army won the 1944 matchup in Baltimore 23–7 and reprised the feat the next year, winning the so-called Game of the Century 32–13.
Army 22, Navy 6
This game featured a matchup of two Heisman Trophy winners — Army's Pete Dawkins, the 1958 winner, and Navy's Joe Bellino, the 1960 winner. These two exceptional players were also exceptional men; Dawkins was ultimately a Rhodes Scholar, Brigadier General and candidate for Senate, while Bellino played for the AFL's Boston Patriots and served in the Navy and Naval Reserve for 28 years. Dawkins' Cadets finished the 1958 season unbeaten with a 22–6 win over the Midshipmen. It would be Army's last unbeaten season and legendary coach Red Blaik's last at the helm.
Navy 34, Army 14
Roger Staubach would win the Heisman Trophy in 1963, but he emerged onto the national stage in the 1962 Army-Navy game. President John F. Kennedy, only days removed from the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, was on hand for the ceremonial coin toss, and then he cleared the stage for Staubach, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in Navy's 34–14 upset of Army.
Navy 3, Army 3
After years of futility, George Welsh returned Navy football to respectability in the late 1970s, earning winning records in his last four seasons in Annapolis and leading Navy to three bowls. But in Welsh's last Army-Navy game before departing to Virginia as the winningest coach in Navy history, he suffered a bitter tie against the Black Knights of the Hudson. Navy entered the game 7–3, while Army was 3–7, but as they say, in a rivalry game, you throw out the records.
Army 22, Navy 20
For the third straight year, the Army-Navy classic came down to a kick. In 1992, Army had won on a 49-yarder with 12 seconds left. In 1993, Navy missed a game-winning 18-yarder with six seconds left. In 1994, the kick didn't come in the final seconds, but it was no less dramatic. Army's Kurt Heiss drilled a 52-yarder, a record for the Army-Navy rivalry, with 6:19 left to give the Cadets a 22–20 win.
Army 34, Navy 30
Army won a classic see-saw battle 34–30 when senior fullback Ty Amey outraced the Navy secondary 70 yards for the winning touchdown. The game was marred by a bizarre incident in which nine spectators, including four Cadets, tumbled onto the field when a railing gave way as they were mugging for television cameras. One Cadet suffered a broken neck.
Army 30, Navy 28
Two lackluster teams produced one of the greatest games in the rivalry's history, as 0–10 Army beat 1–9 Navy 30–28, marking the last time that the team with the lesser record won the matchup. Befitting a matchup between teams that had combined for a 1-19 record, the game featured seven turnovers and two blocked kicks