Sports History 101: Army-Navy, By The Numbers

Posted on November 11, 2008

By Michael Rogers

The establishment of the annual football game between  Army and Navy was the result of the idea proposed by a sports-loving cadet by the name of Dennis Michie. What has become a national holiday of sorts for millions of veterans and fans started simply as a clever attempt by Michie to get an Army sports program off the ground. 

At last year's Army-Navy game, Navy defeated Army, 38-3, on December 1, 2007 at M&T Bank Stadium. (Courtesy of US Naval Academy)

Michie initiated his plan in 1890 by persuading a friend at the Naval Academy to issue a football challenge to West Point. This challenge, Michie correctly reasoned, would force  Army brass to respond with pride and accept. The problem for Michie and the Army, however, was that when Navy issued the challenge Army didn't have a sports program, yet alone a football squad.

Navy on the other hand had played 27 games in its school history (14-12-2) and had a season record that year of 5-1 at the time of the game. The Army academic board approved the plan to accept the challenge on condition the game was played at West Point. 

After receiving his approvals, Michie hurriedly tried to assemble a team but found only two other cadets with football experience. He therefore eventually acted as captain, coach, trainer and even treasurer since the Army did not provide any financial support to his plan. The Army team purchased its own uniforms, and Michie had to pay the Navy 52 cents per player to cover half of Navy's $275 in train and other travel costs to West Point. 

The first game was played Nov. 29, 1890, and ultimately Army lost the inaugural game to Navy, 24-0, on "The Plains" of West Point before 500 spectators. But, Michie had achieved his dream of establishing a program that would eventually reach the pinnacle of college football, including national championships in 1944 and '45.   

Since then, the rival academies have met 108 times. As the two teams prepare to battle at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field Dec. 6, here's a by-the-numbers look at one of the greatest rivalries in sports. 

The pageantry at the game can rivalry the action on the field.
(Mitch Stringer/PressBox)
108 -- Total number of games played between Army and Navy between 1890 and 2007.

80 -- The number of times the Army-Navy game has been played in Philadelphia, the most times of any city. The game has been played at several locations, beginning with Franklin Field, home to University of Pennsylvania athletics, where the game was played 18 times between years 1899 and 1935. Next to host the series was Municipal Stadium, where the game was played 41 times between 1936 and 1979 (Municipal Stadium was renamed J.F.K Stadium in 1963, and demolished in 1992). The series then moved to Veterans Stadium, where it was played 17 times between 1980 and 2001. Lincoln Financial Field has hosted the game four times between 2003 and 2006 

The game has also been played in New York City (11 times), Baltimore (4), East Rutherford, N.J. (4), Annapolis (3), West Point (3), Chicago (1), Pasadena, Calif. (1) and Princeton, N.J. (1). 

52 -- The number of games won by Navy. The first win came Nov. 29, 1890 by a score of 24-0. Navy's won last year, 38-3, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. 
 
49 -- The number of games won by Army. Army won its first game, 32-16, Nov. 29, 1891 at Thompson Field in Annapolis. Army's last win was Dec. 1, 2001, 26-17, at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.  

46 -- The largest margin of victory for Navy when it beat Army, 58-12, on Dec. 7, 2002 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. This was also the most points ever scored by Navy in the series.  
 
38 -- The largest margin of victory for Army when it blanked Navy, 38-0, Nov. 26, 1949 at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia. The most points Army has scored in the series is 40 in 1903.  

 
38 -- Number of head coaches in Navy team history with a combined record of 630-513-57 (as of Nov. 1, 2008). 

Notable is former coach Paul Johnson, who had a 45-29-0 career record at Navy from 2002-2008. When Johnson arrived at Navy from Georgia Southern in 2002, his team won only two of 12 games in his first season, but this included a win over Army. In  subsequent years, until his leaving to assume the Georgia Tech coaching position following the 2007 season, Johnson rebuilt  Navy into a perennial contender that  accepted a school record five straight bowl games. Highlighting Johnson's record was Navy's domination of the Commander in Chief Trophy, winning it in each year of his tenure. He was named NCAA Coach of the Year in 2004, partly in recognition of his leading the Midshipmen to their first 10-win season since 1905 and being the first Navy coach to beat Army in his first six seasons. 
 
35 -- Number of head coaches in Army team history with a combined record of 637-446-51 (as of Nov. 1, 2008). 

Most notable is Earl H. "Red" Blaik, who set a career record at Army of 121-33-10 from 1941 to '59. He led Army in an unbeaten streak of 32 games from 1944-'47, during which Army won consecutive national championships in 1944 and '45. 

Blaik coached three Army Heisman Trophy recipients (Doc Blanchard 1945, Glenn  Davis '46, Pete Dawkins '58) and 11 of his players have been inducted into the collegiate Football Hall of Fame. Blaik's Army teams were undefeated in six seasons -- 1944, '45, '46, '48, '49, '58.  
 
20 -- The number of shutouts recorded by Navy over Army. The last occurred Dec. 2, 1978 at J.F.K Stadium in Philadelphia, 28-0. Navy shut out Army in consecutive games on four occasions in 1906-'07, 1939-'40, 1942-'43, and 1973-'74. Navy shut out Army for three consecutive games twice between 1910-1912, and 1919-1921.  
 
10 -- The number of shutouts recorded by Army over Navy. The last occurred Nov. 29, 1969 at J.F.K Stadium in Philadelphia, 27-0. Army shut out Navy in consecutive games just once (1914-'15). 
 
10 -- Number of years in which there was no Army Navy game: 1894, '95, '96, '97, '98, 1909, '17, '18, '28 and '29. 
 
7 -- The number of ties between Army and Navy: 1905 (6 points), '23 (0), '26 (21), '48 (27), '56 (7), '65 (7), and '81 (3).  
 
6 -- Longest streak of consecutive wins in the series. Navy can extend its streak to seven with a win this season. 

-- The number of touchdowns scored by Navy quarterback Craig Candeto Dec. 2, 2002 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. His 36 points were the most ever scored by a single player in an Army-Navy contest as Navy won, 58-12. In honor of his accomplishments, and for wearing their squadron insignia during the game, Navy Squadron VFA-83 named one of their F-18's "Candeto Ride."  
 
3 -- The number of Heisman Trophies awarded to Army. Both of Army's national championships and two of its three Heismans were awarded during the tenure of the famous Army duo of  Felix "Doc" Blanchard and Glenn Davis. The punishing running style of the 6-foot, 205-pound Blanchard earned him the nickname of "Mr. Inside."  Complementing Blanchard's power was the quick-footed Davis, nicknamed "Mr. Outside." The two played for Army for three consecutive years 1944-'46 and led Army to 27 victories, no defeats and a single tie to Notre Dame in 1946 by a score of 0-0. 

Blanchard was the first junior to be awarded the Heisman when he was honored in 1945. The following year, Davis took home the honor. The third Army Heisman recipient  was halfback Pete Dawkins in 1958.  
 
2 -- The number of Heisman Trophies awarded to Navy. Halfback Joe Bellino received the award in 1960 for his stellar leadership play during Navy's nine-win season that was marred only by a sole loss to Duke in Durham, 19-10. An outstanding baseball player as well, the 5-foot-8, 181-pound Bellino excelled on the football field. In 1960, he ran for 834 yards and netted 18 touchdowns, which accounted for half of Navy's offense. 

The second Navy player to receive the Heisman Trophy was quarterback Roger Staubach, who was honored in 1963. At the time, Staubach was only the fourth junior to receive the award. Staubach's Heisman season was highlighted by a regular season 9-0 record with wins over Army and Notre Dame and a final ranking of No. 2 in the nation. A loss in the 1964 Cotton Bowl to national champion Texas, 28-7, was the only setback for Navy that season. Staubach's career totals in three seasons at Navy included 292 of 463 passes completed (.630) with only 19 interceptions and 4,253 yards of total offense. Staubach is the last player from a military academy to be awarded the Heisman Trophy.  
 
1 -- The number of United States Presidents who played in the Army-Navy game. President Dwight D. Eisenhower played running back for Army in a single season in 1912. A knee injury suffered in a game against Tufts ended his playing career. On football, President Eisenhower said, "I believe that football instills into many men the feeling that victory comes through hard -- almost slavish -- work, team play, self-confidence and an enthusiasm that amounts to dedication."  
 
Issue 131: November 2008 

next up:

Book Review: The Colts' Baltimore

November 11, 2008

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