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Army fans looking for a change of fortune in 117th Army-Navy game

Navy fans meet Army mascot before the Army-Navy football game Dec. 10, 2016, in Baltimore.

MEREDITH TIBBETTS/STARS AND STRIPES

By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 10, 2016

BALTIMORE – Hope springs eternal for the Army faithful gathered at M&T Bank Stadium for the 117th annual Army-Navy football game.

Despite every reason to be disheartened – after all, the Black Knights haven’t come out on top of the vaunted rivalry game in 14 years – the West Point cadets, veterans and alums who poured into the Baltimore Ravens' stadium remained optimistic about the outcome of Saturday’s game.

“The streak stops here,” said Mohamed Sow, a senior at the U.S. Military Academy. “It ends today.”

At first blush, that may seem a tall order for the Black Knights. After all, the Midshipman came into today’s contest with a rivalry win streak older than many of the game’s attendees. And in more than a century of games between the two service academy rivals, Navy leads Army 60–49–7.

But if any year is to be their year, it could be this one.

The Midshipmen are down to their third-string quarterback, Zach Abey, who has only completed seven passes coming into today’s game. Abey looked shaky when he replaced second string Will Worth against Temple last week, throwing two interceptions in a heartbreaking loss that also saw the loss of running back Dishan Romine.

Those injuries have left some Navy fans a bit more reserved about their team’s chances. Even the most boisterous fan had to admit that it’s likely to be a close game.

“It’s going to be a good game,” said Jim Erisman, a former petty officer who served aboard the USS Norfolk in the early 60s. “It’s a toss-up, it really is.”

Navy has looked solid the rest of the year, but this is the biggest game of the year and having an inexperienced player behind center is a soft spot Army will attempt to exploit. And the vaunted Black Knight defense has only allowed 19.1 points per game.  Both teams will be looking to grind out a victory on the ground.

The Black Knights will depend on Andy Davidson (821 yds, 5.5 YPC, 9 TDs) to generate points on the ground. Navy will likewise turn to their duo of Chris High and Shawn White to put points on the board. Expect this to be a tough fought ground game, punctuated by a big time defensive standoff.

Sam Yoshino, brother of a U.S. Military Academy freshman, expects a bit more than just a tough fought game though.

“This is our year,” he said.  “Navy’s quarterback went down, and we have a lot of reason for optimism. Our defense is the strongest it’s ever been. We’re playing as good of football as we’ve played all season. I’m ready to beat these [players].”

Unlikely? Perhaps. But as Yoshino pointed out, considering the Chicago Cubs pulled out an unlikely victory in the World Series, nothing seems too unlikely for 2016.

darnell.michael@stripes.com
 

Navy fans await the start of the Army-Navy game Dec. 10, 2016 in Baltimore.
MEREDITH TIBBETTS/STARS AND STRIPES

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