As Navy gets ready to play against Army, we have a collection of Army-Navy stories to share from past seasons. This year's Army-Navy football game will take place at M&T Stadium in Baltimore, Saturday, 13 December at 3 p.m. ET.
This year’s game marks the 115th time the Naval Academy’s Midshipmen will compete against West Point’s Black Knights on the football field. The football rivalry began in 1890 with Navy beating Army, 24-0.
GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!
Army-Navy Gridiron Menus
Army-Navy: New Rivals
Team Named Desire
Army-Navy Gridiron Menus…Bon Appetite from Great Philadelphia and New York Restaurants
Don’t you love a terrific college football game played over a great football weekend? Such a weekend typically involves 1) two great football teams, 2) a historic and long-running football rivalry between the two teams and 3) a game host city that understands and appreciates the important traditions associated with hosting a major national sports event.
A football rivalry between Army and Navy would certainly meet these requirements. Army and Navy are special teams as West Point and Annapolis have served as the source of America’s military leaders and president for over the past two centuries. The annual Army-Navy football game has been played 114 times beginning in 1890 with breaks only in:
• 1894-1898 (resulting from a fist-fight between a retired general and a retired admiral at the 1893 game in Annapolis)
• 1917-18 (World War 1)
• 1928-29 (Disagreement over Army player eligibility).
Philadelphia and New York lead the list of Army-Navy host cities, Philadelphia with 85 and New York with 11.
These annual Army-Navy games are where good friends or classmates make a weekend of it, participating in a pep rally or joint Army-Navy gala on Friday night, attend the game and associated activities on Saturday and then celebrate their team’s victory (or defeat) at a fine restaurant on Saturday evening before returning home on Sunday. In fact, one of the big clues indicating that a big college football game such as Army-Navy is scheduled is the creation of game specific souvenir menus by major host city restaurants or hotels.
Game specific souvenir menus are rarely, if ever, seen anymore. When was the last time you saw such a menu?
This article includes information on some of my favorite gridiron menus… restaurant or hotel menus associated with Army-Navy football games for the 60 year period between 1906 and 1966.
Presented below are seven restaurant souvenir menus organized in chronological order. In each case, I’ll refresh your memory about the game and tell you a little about the host city restaurant or hotel that prepared the menu. Finally, just for fun, my wife, Roxanne, and I will place an order had we been lucky enough to attend the big game! Drinks are included only when listed in the menu! Bon Appetite!! READ MORE (PDF)...
Army-Navy: New Rivals
By Gary Lambrecht
When Ken Niumatalolo was a senior quarterback at the University of Hawaii, a graduate assistant named Jeff Monken joined the Rainbow Warriors’ coaching staff. A year later, Niumatalolo and Monken worked at Hawaii in that same capacity and established a lasting friendship, before reuniting as Navy assistants in 2002.
Little did they know a quarter-century ago how closely they would become intertwined with what is widely recognized as the greatest rivalry in college sports.
When Navy welcomes Army to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, where the service academy archrivals will play each other for the 115th time on December 13, Niumatalolo and Monken will be squaring off as head coaches for the first time.
While the Midshipmen and the Cadets are warming up before kickoff on Saturday, Niumatalolo is anticipating a wave of mixed emotions, as he and Monken greet each other and stand on the same field as opponents.
“I knew how excited Jeff was to get a [Division] I-A job at a really prestigious school, and I was so happy for him. But part of me wants to ask him [before the game] why he couldn’t find a great job at any other school [but Army],” Niumatalolo said with a laugh. “It’s strange. Jeff is my friend. Now we’re going to be recruiting against each other and trying to beat each other every year.”
Niumatalolo, who is winding up his seventh season at Navy, and Monken, who got his first taste as a head coach over four successful seasons at Georgia Southern before moving on to West Point, have spent nearly a decade as allies, spread over two phases of their respective careers.
In 1989, when an up-and-coming offensive coordinator named Paul Johnson was tutoring Niumatalolo on the spread option offense, Hawaii head coach Bob Wagner filled out his staff with Monken, who had recently graduated from Millikin University in his home state of Illinois. After that season, Niumatalolo was brought on board as a graduate assistant. He worked on the offensive side, Monken on the defensive side.
“At the age of 22, I was so naïve,” Monken recalled. “I didn’t realize how hard it was just to get a G.A. job at that level. I listened and learned and took it all in. Ken was much more mature than the typical student-athlete. It was easy to strike up a friendship with him when we became coaches together.”
Monken left after that second season in Honolulu to coach at Arizona State, and later moved on to Buffalo. Over time, the connections between Johnson, Monken, Niumatalolo and Navy would strengthen.
First, Johnson left the island to run the offense under Charlie Weatherbie at Navy in 1995, and Niumatalolo came with him to coach running backs. After two years, Johnson took his first head coaching job at Georgia Southern, where he would lead the school to two Division I-AA titles in five seasons – with the help of Monken, who had rejoined him in Statesboro in 1997.
Niumatalolo, meanwhile, replaced Johnson as offensive coordinator at Navy, but clashed with Weatherbie, who let him go after the 1998 season. Niumatalolo landed at UNLV for three years.
Then, when Navy’s program bottomed out by losing 20 of 21 games over 2000 and 2001, newly-hired athletic director Chet Gladchuk brought Johnson back to Annapolis as head coach. Johnson assembled a staff that included Niumatalolo (assistant head coach/offensive line) and Monken (slot backs/special teams), and set about rebuilding the program quickly.
By 2003, Navy enjoyed its first winning season since 1997 and earned its first Commander-In-Chief’s trophy since 1981. Johnson would lead the Mids to five consecutive bowl games and five straight CIC awards, before leaving for Georgia Tech after the 2007 and taking Monken with him.
Niumatalolo succeeded Johnson the day after he left, and has maintained Navy’s success with 55 wins, six bowl game berths and four CIC trophies. Monken, who won 38 games over four seasons at Georgia Southern, is now trying to rebuild Army football. The Black Knights (4-7) have endured 17 losing seasons in the past 18 years.
“Kenny and I have been the beneficiaries of being with Coach Johnson and learning that great system of his,” Monken said. “This might be the most challenging job in college football [at Army]. This year has been eerily similar to the situation we got into at Navy. My experience there gives me great hope here.”
Niumatalolo, who, like Johnson, has never lost to the Black Knights, outlasted coaches Stan Brock and Rich Ellerson at Army, which is on its fifth head coach dating to 2000. Monken replaced Ellerson, who recruited Niumatalolo while he was defensive coordinator at Hawaii.
Niumatalolo recalled having a frank conversation with Ellerson about the coaching business when he took over at Army in 2009. He had a similar exchange with Monken last year.
“I told Jeff that one of us is getting fired,” Niumatalolo said. “That’s the reality of it.”
By Gary Lambrecht
As the Navy football team envisions its 115th meeting with Army on December 13, the Midshipmen feel pressured to extend their series-record, 12-game winning streak over their archrivals.
Before the Mids started their remarkable run against the Black Knights in 2002, neither school had ever won more than five consecutive games against the other. And not that long ago, Navy was on the short end of an agonizing, five-year run of futility.
Clint Bruce ’97 and Ben Fay ’97, co-captains on Navy’s 1996 squad, can tell you a thing or two about the agony of defeat in this long-running story. From 1992 through 1996, Army didn’t just run the table on the Mids. The Black Knights tortured Navy, winning five games by a combined 10 points.
For Bruce and Fay, the deepest personal cuts came in ’95 and ’96, when they were key contributors in their final two years at the academy.
In the 1995 game, first-year coach Charlie Weatherbie passed up a chip-shot field goal with a 13-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter, only to watch quarterback Chris McCoy miss an open receiver in the end zone on fourth down from Army’s one-yard line. Army quarterback Ronnie McAda then drove the Cadets 99 yards in 19 plays. John Conroy’s one-yard TD run with 1:03 left allowed Army to escape with a 14-13 heartbreaker.
In 1996, the Mids jumped out to a 21-3, second-quarter lead behind McCoy. But Army stormed back with 22 unanswered points then preserved a 28-24 lead, despite Navy’s advance inside the Cadets’ 10-yard line in its last two possessions.
“I wouldn’t call it failure. I would classify it as suffering,” said Fay, who lettered at quarterback in ’95 and ’96, sharing the position with McCoy. “It was a ‘Why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people?’ kind of deal. We were very close as a team. A lot of it had to do with the lessons learned and the pain we endured in those [Army] games.”
“In many ways, those four games I experienced [1993-1996] were carbon copies of each other,” said Bruce, a four-year letterman and one of the top linebackers to play at Navy in the 1990s. “I take part ownership in three of those games – missing a tackle here, being a step late there. I don’t live a nostalgic life, but I still see snapshots from those games.”
The defining snapshot in the ’95 game was a legendary fourth down play by Army on its long, final drive. The Cadets were at Navy’s 29 and needed 24 yards to stay alive. McAda connected with John Graves for 28 yards. Two plays later, Conroy scored.
“We definitely had the momentum. There was no question about that,” Fay recalled. “I just kept thinking, ‘Stop them. Give me a chance to get back in there.’”
The ’96 loss crushed Navy in a different way. The Mids, who would win the Aloha Bowl over California 18 days later to finish 9-3, again had the momentum against Army with an early, 18-point advantage. But McAda ignited a huge comeback with a 44-yard touchdown run.
“Ronnie maintains he ran over me, but I actually over-pursued and tried to make an arm tackle,” Bruce said.
The Mids got painfully close to sending the Class of ’97 out with its only win over the Cadets. Navy snapped the ball eight times inside the Army 10 in game’s final four minutes, but could not alter the 28-24 outcome.
Bruce said he looks back at those defeats without bitterness.
“I look back with deep affection for both teams. It came down to us being a couple of inches away from telling the other side of the story,” said Bruce, who still talks regularly with McAda, a fellow Dallas resident.
“I remember being on the field and thinking about what great battles the nation was watching, and that I’m going to war with those [Army] guys, and this is what they’re made of.”
By Gary Lambrecht
Tyler Tidwell ’07 remembers how guardedly optimistic he felt going into his last go-round against Army in 2006.
For three years, the most meaningful rivalry to any Midshipman had swung hard in Navy’s favor, showing how much the two football programs were moving in opposite directions. In Tidwell’s first three seasons at outside linebacker, the Mids had been to three bowl games, had beaten Army three times by an average of 25 points and for good measure had not lost to Air Force, either.
All of which brought added tension to a looming contest that, on paper, looked like another rout waiting to happen.
“We were trying to become the first senior class to 8-0 against the other service academies. That was a pretty big deal for all of us,” Tidwell said. “I was trying to fight through that ‘don’t-lose-the-game’ mentality, instead of just actively trying to win the [Army] game.
“[Navy defensive coordinator] Buddy Green reminded us that we weren’t as good as we might think we are. At Navy, we were very cognizant of the dynamic that we’re never going to play a team that couldn’t beat us.”
So Tidwell wasn’t shocked that the heavily favored, 8-3 Mids found themselves in a tense duel with the Black Knights at Lincoln Financial Field.
Navy’s offense, which had endured the midseason loss of quarterback Brian Hampton to a knee injury but had been energized under new quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, had averaged 43 points in three consecutive wins preceding the Army game.
But that day in Philadelphia, the Navy offense stumbled early, just like it had earlier in the season. It didn’t help that fullback Adam Ballard, the team’s leading rusher, suffered a broken leg early in the first quarter. By the end of that quarter, the Mids had rallied to tie the game at 7-7, and the game would remain tied until receiver Jason Tomlinson scored on a 33-yard reverse to end Navy’s first possession after halftime.
“We were used to playing with such an explosive offense. The vast majority of the time when I played, the offense helped the defense,” Tidwell said. “We were waiting for them to unleash [against Army]. But that day ended up being one of those times when things worked the other way around.”
Ultimately, the Navy defense, including Tidwell, would have the final say in Navy’s 26-14 victory by holding Army to 59 yards over its final five possessions. Safety Jeff Deliz’ first career interception set up a 35-yard field goal by Matt Harmon to make it 17-7 early in the fourth quarter. Then, cornerback Keenan Little returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-7 with 5:22 left.
Finally, Tidwell, one of Navy’s top pass rushers for his final two seasons, sacked Army quarterback Carson Williams on back-to-back plays. The second sack came in the Black Knights’ end zone, resulting in a safety that made it 26-7.
“Army was deep in their territory, and the Brigade was right there roaring. It was like we smelled blood in the water,” said Tidwell, who was lined up at right defensive end. “On the first sack, I tried a swim move by going outside. When I planted my foot to go back inside, the Army lineman got his feet tied up and tripped.
“On the safety, I got [to the quarterback] just ahead of [senior outside linebacker] David Mahoney, who I thought was the best player on our team. He blitzed hard from the left side, and he got there about a half-second after I did. I remember Dave telling me that I was really lucky, and he was right.”
By Gary Lambrecht
As the head coach at Division III Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, Craig Candeto ’04 is living a dream. As the former starting quarterback at Navy, Candeto said he will always draw on his experience in Annapolis, where the Midshipmen dramatically turned around a program that had fallen on hard times.
Candeto was part of both worlds with the Midshipmen. Through his first three seasons, Navy won only three of 33 games. In his final year, under second-year coach Paul Johnson, the 2003 Mids went 8-5, earned their first trip to a bowl game since 1996 and won the school’s first Commander-In-Chief’s trophy since 1981.
And Candeto played a pivotal role in Navy’s revival, evidenced memorably by his hand in back-to-back wins over Army.
First, there was Candeto’s record-breaking performance against the Black Knights in 2002, when he rushed for 103 yards and a school-record six touchdowns and threw a TD pass to punctuate Navy’s 58-12 blowout win. That victory still marks the most points scored by one team in the rivalry. It also took some sting out of Navy’s 2-10, rebuilding year.
The Mids’ 34-6 rout over Army in 2003 served as a finishing touch on the rebirth of Navy’s program. That day, the Mids started their current, record 12-game winning streak over their archrivals, and it featured Candeto in the final win of his career. While contributing 113 yards of total offense, Candeto became only the second QB in Navy history to rush for and throw for 1,000 yards in a single season.
“That win in 2002 kind of propelled us into 2003, and the 2003 game propelled us toward bigger things that are still happening for the program,” said Candeto, a co-captain in ‘03.
“We were one of the worst college teams in the country. To go from that to a success and to be a huge part of it as a senior – I still carry that sense of accomplishment with me today. When I’m coaching kids and we’re struggling, I can fall back on that experience.”
The rout in 2002, which still stands as the second-largest margin of victory in the Army-Navy series, was something no one in the Navy locker room expected. Coming into the game, the Mids had lost 10 straight games, including six by at least 21 points. But Candeto, the leader of Navy’s triple option, shredded the Black Knights from the start.
The Mids scored on their first eight possessions, did not commit a turnover or penalty and piled up an Army-Navy record of 508 total yards. The defense allowed only 56 yards rushing.
Although the 2003 game ended in a 28-point blowout, Candeto recalled a much different tone in the contest. Navy found a much tougher rival, as winless Army stymied the Mids’ option in the first half. Navy’s halftime lead was only 13-6.
“It’s different when you’re the favorite. That was something we weren’t used to at Navy back then. Our defense kept us in the game early. Army was determined not to let me run the way I had the year before,” Candeto said. “Coach Johnson told us at halftime that we were letting a no-win team play with us, and that had to stop.”
And stop it did. The Mids drove 80 yards to score on their opening possession of the second half and go up, 20-6. Then, after Bobby McClarin ’04 intercepted an Army pass inside Navy’s 10, Candeto directed another touchdown drive that effectively put the game out of reach.
“Army hit us in the mouth. Upsetting us was the one thing that could have really hurt our season,” said Candeto, who treasures the school’s first CIC trophy in 22 years. “Once we started playing the way we’d played all year, it was over. We buried them.”
By Gary Lambrecht
Keenan Reynolds ’16 officially arrived as Navy’s quarterback of the future in Colorado Springs on an early October afternoon in 2012, not long after surviving plebe summer and his first preseason camp. That day against Air Force, Reynolds came off the bench to replace an injured Trey Miller, and the 18-year-old Tennessee native sparked the Midshipmen to an overtime victory over the Falcons.
But the pressure-packed scene Reynolds confronted that day was merely a prelude to what he would experience two months later in Philadelphia, beginning with the final hours leading up to his first Army-Navy game.
“Usually it’s empty when we drive into a stadium two-and-a-half hours before a game. There’s nobody in the stands yet,” Reynolds said.
“But that day, when our bus pulled in [to Lincoln Financial Field], there were cars parked everywhere. When we got onto the field, I was amazed at how many people were in the stands. Between the Brigade and the Cadets and some others, there must have 10,000 people already there. We hadn’t even started warming up yet. That was a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Several hours later, before nearly 70,000 spectators, Reynolds would add a prominent footnote to one of the more remarkable seasons by a true freshman in Navy history.
In the 113th meeting between the two service academies, Reynolds did not play anything close to a perfect game. Yet he authored the biggest plays in a come-from-behind, 17-13 victory – the closest margin during the Mids’ current, 12-game winning streak over the Black Knights – and was good enough to be voted the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Reynolds and the Mids were tested from the outset on a day that was frustrating for Navy’s high-scoring offense. After the two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the second quarter, the Mids could not find the end zone. Late in the third quarter, Reynolds lost a fumble that Army turned into a 13-10 lead on Eric Osteen’s 21-yard field goal.
The Mids continued to sputter, but Navy got a lift after Osteen was wide left on 37-yard field-goal attempt with 6:57 left in the contest. And then, Reynolds went to work with the same cool he had shown at Air Force.
First, he found slot back Geoffrey Whiteside on a crossing route for a critical, third-down conversion. Then he connected with receiver Brandon Turner for a huge, 49-yard gain.
“We hadn’t run that backside vertical play [to Turner] in a while. I don’t even think we practiced it that week,” Reynolds recalled.
Reynolds then followed with an eight-yard, outside run that gave Navy its 17-13 lead with 4:41 left.
“We got [Army’s] defense pinned inside. I ducked outside and saw the pylon [where the goal line meets the sideline] and knew I had to get there,” he said. “I just ran for that corner and slid on in. We were right in front of the Brigade. There was a roar.”
There was an equally large roar when, after Army had driven to Navy’s 14-yard line, Larry Dixon fumbled and Navy nose guard Barry Dabney fell on it. With that, the Mids ran out the clock, and most importantly, brought the Commander’s-In-Chief back to Annapolis for a record 13th time, after Air Force had kept it for two years.
All Reynolds had to do in the closing seconds was take a knee after receiving the snap from center Tanner Fleming. But those routine snaps carried added tension.
“Nothing mattered but the snap. Even though I’d taken a thousand snaps from Tanner, we still practiced 10 of them on the sideline [before the offense took the field one last time],” Reynolds said. “Just when you think something like that is second nature is when you fumble one. I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Team Named Desire
By Jack Clary
The famed 1954 Navy football team—the Team Named Desire—celebrated its 60th anniversary season this year. Its place in the annals of the Naval Academy’s football history remains unchallenged as one of the top five memorable teams to wear Navy blue & gold.
The team, coached by Eddie Erdelatz and led by the inimitable quarterback George Welsh, had a 7-2 record, including a memorable 27-20 upset victory over Army, in one of that historic rivalry’s greatest games.
But scores and statistics alone do not tell the complete story of what made that team so special.
It started with Erdelatz, who had once an assistant coach at Navy in 1945-47 and had helped to develop two of their greatest ends, Dick Duden and Leon Bramlett. He left Navy and became an assistant coach for two years of the San Francisco 49ers of the All-America Football Conference. That league folded after the 1949 season but the Niners were invited to join the NFL.
Before Erdelatz could decide his coaching status, or keeping his day job as proprietor of Joe’s Steam Bar in San Francisco, the Naval Academy offered him its head coaching job, succeeding George Sauer who had left to become head coach at Baylor University. Erdelatz later said his that time as an assistant coach at the Academy was such a positive experience that he didn’t hesitate to accept the job.
Success for the talent-challenged midshipman was fleeting at first. They won just three games in 1950, but one was a colossal 14-2 upset of Army, the first loss suffered by any Cadet team since the 1947 season.
Erdelatz and Navy stunned everyone with a 6-2-1 record in 1952, Navy’s first winning season since the 1945 team’s 7-1-1 mark had brought it to the brink of a national championship.
There followed a winning season (4-3-2) in 1953, but that was soured by a loss to Army. Before the 1954 season, Erdelatz revamped his team and its ultimate success didn’t become apparent until the Mids had travelled 3000 miles across the country to California and stunned a very good Stanford team, quarterbacked by future Hall of Famer John Brodie, 25-0.
“There was indeed something very special about its unique chemistry, an absolutely necessary quality that enables a team of players to rise above its capability and deliver success on nearly every weekend,” said Phil Monahan, the captain of that team and one of its starting running backs, in discussing its success a few years ago.
Monahan himself became a centerpiece of that “unique chemistry” because leg injuries had limited his playing time to 30 minutes for the entire season. He had undergone knee surgery in the spring, costing him precious practice time; and then he injured his other knee during pre-season drills. All of this was compounded by a continuing spate of pulled leg muscles that limited his playing time to three minutes in a 42-7 victory against Dartmouth in the season’s second game, 11 very valuable minutes in the big upset win against Stanford and 16 minutes in a 52-6 win against Penn.
His playing season ended after he re-injured his knee during preparations for the game against Pitt.
In a glowing tribute to Monahan after the season had ended, Erdelatz declared: “He has given us just 30 minutes of playing time but he has given us 100 years of leadership.”
Those leadership skills became very apparent during his 35 years in the Marine Corps where he achieved flag rank as a major general. In his post-military life, football still was in his blood, so he joined the coaching staff of his former teammate George Welsh, then the head coach at the University of Virginia, for several years; and then did likewise with former Navy lineman Tom O’Brien when he became head coach for a decade at Boston College.
Welsh, a junior in 1954, was the engine who made the Team Named Desire function on the field in the way he directed Erdelatz’ split-T offense. He was a veritable magician with his nifty ball handling skills but also became one of the team’s best ball carriers on his keeper plays with a four-yard average per carry (213 yards in 52 attempts).
He was also a very effective passer during an era when the offensive emphasis was on running the ball. In 1954, he completed 39 of 81 pass attempts for 527 yards and seven touchdowns.
The team was well-fortified with other offensive weapons, beginning with All-America end Ron Beagle, who also won the Maxwell Trophy as the nation’s outstanding collegiate player. His numbers are modest (19 receptions, 243 yards and three touchdowns) by current standards, but ends at that time played both ways. Beagle was a relentless defensive player and even blocked a punt that resulted in a touchdown against Stanford.
“Beagle can do everything and do it well. He’s a great end,” Erdelatz said in summing up his season’s play.
Bob Craig, Dick Guest and Joe Gattuso complemented Welsh’s running offense. Craig was the Mids top speed guy who averaged over six yards a carry that season, and was a valuable defensive player who grabbed four interceptions.
Guest’s defensive play and his blocking ability pushed him into a starter’s job after the season began, to which he also added a part-time punter’s role.
Gattuso, whose son Joe Jr., later became a star running back for the Mids, was Navy’s leading rusher with 525 yards, averaged over seven yards a carry, was the team’s leading scorer with 43 points and was a ferocious linebacker. He also shared the punting job with Guest.
The “desire” factor played right into the resiliency of this team, particularly when Erdelatz had to make key personnel moves. Welsh couldn’t play against Stanford because of an injured rib so into the breach stepped his backup, Dick Echard. He put on a flawless performance in directing Navy to its astounding 25-0 victory.
Monahan’s injury left a gaping hole at running back so Erdelatz moved John Weaver, then a third-string quarterback and one of the team’s best defensive backs, to fill the void. Three games later he was the starting left halfback and averaged four yards a carry that season.
Earle Smith also fit the mold. He began the season as a quarterback but was switched to right end just before the season began and soon won the starting job where he caught 13 passes for 177 yards and four touchdowns.
It was the same story along the offensive line. Wilson Whitmire, a sophomore who was the third string center when the season began, was forced into action after Bob Davis and Dick Dutnell were injured in the same game. Once again, “desire” became an overriding factor because Whitmire played so well that he kept the job and became one of Navy’s greatest centers.
John Hopkins was a reserve end in 1953 but was switched to left tackle before the 1954 season began. He found it was a natural fit for his abilities and became one of Navy’s greatest linemen.
Jim Royer, who along with Beagle were the only players to start every game in 1954, not only moved up from the junior varsity team but switched positions from guard to right tackle.
“There was a feeling within the team that there were no obstacles that we couldn’t overcome,” Monahan told me a few years ago. “It was ‘Just go out and do your job, don’t make any mistakes and we’ll be okay.’”
Erdelatz was never introspective about what drove that team’s success but he so admired its drive to succeed that he often went out of his way to praise its “desire,” which had become a code word of sorts for the unique team chemistry that had bound it together.
That’s what gave birth to “The Team Named Desire” tag following the 25-0 victory over Stanford. To which Erdelatz added:
“This team has more will to win than any of the five squads I have coached at the Academy.”
When the team returned to the Naval Academy the following evening, and rode their buses into a dark and deserted Tecumseh Court, they were greeted by blinding flood lights and all 3000 members of the Brigade, accompanied by brass band. Every player was hoisted onto shoulders and carried from the buses.
For the rest of that season, Navy was known as the Team Named Desire, and win or lose, that was its hallmark as it won six of eight games before playing arch-rival Army. It was also a powerful team that averaged more than 33 points a game.
Their team mindset built around total effort certainly bulwarked its spirit in shrugging of its two heartbreaking losses. The week after upsetting Stanford, the Mids were victims of a cruel twist of fate in a 21-19 loss to Pitt. The Panthers that day were coached by Naval Academy icon Tom Hamilton who stepped away from his athletic director’s chair to replace head coach Red Dawson after he was hospitalized by illness.
George Welsh reclaimed the starting QB job late in the Pitt game, and led the team for the rest of the season. He engineered a mighty 52-6 win against Penn but Navy, its running game stymied by a sloppy playing field in Baltimore, allowed Notre Dame to dominate the first half and score its only TD in a 6-0 victory. Navy dominated the second half and missed getting a tie or even a win when Bob Craig fumbled and lost the ball at the goal line in the third quarter.
Navy had a 6-2 record going into the Army game and 102,000 jammed Philadelphia’s old Municipal Stadium, anticipating watching a game-for-the-ages between two teams which were nationally ranked for the first time in ten years. They were not disappointed.
The Mids turned an early fumble recovery into its first touchdown and a 7-0 lead on Welsh’s fourth down, six-yard screen pass to Bob Craig. Army immediately shocked the Mids, which had that nation’s No. 2 ranked defense, with a 16-play scoring drive but missed the extra point.
Welsh, always a crafty and cunning signal-called, then worked some of his magic after the teams changed goals to start the second quarter. Army’s coach Earl Blaik always inserted his second team to start the second quarter and Welsh, figuring those new players would be thinking only about peeling back and covering an expected punt, instead called for a sweep. John Weaver zoomed 23 yards around end for a first down, and a couple of plays later Welsh passed to Earle
Smith for a touchdown and a 14-6 Navy lead.
Next came a series of plays that left the huge crowd breathless because of their impact.
Navy’s Dick Guest fumbled a punt snap and twice lost the ball before Army’ Don Holleder recovered at Navy’s three-yard line. Pat Uebel scored on the next play. Then, on Navy first splay after the extra point, Uebel intercepted one of Welsh’s passes, setting up Pete Vann’s 42-yard TD pass to Bob Kyasky, and Army suddenly led 20-14.
Then came the game’s critical play. Vann, without any order from Blaik, told kicker Ralph Chesnauskas to try an onsides kick but failed to inform the other members of Army’s kicking team. Therefore, the Cadets did not use their special coverage assignments and Navy easily recovered the ball at its 47-yard line. Weaver then ran for 27-yards and caught a 27-yard pass from Welsh before and the Navy QB slid into the end zone for a 21-20 lead.
Navy added a touchdown in the third quarter with a ten-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Welsh’s second TD pass to Smith, for a 27-20 lead. Army had one gallant try remaining late in the game, moving to Navy’s eight-yard line before Gattuso roared in on a fourth down blitz and hit Vann’s arm as he was throwing the ball, causing it to fall harmlessly to the ground.
The game was worthy of its hype. Erdelatz, as was his custom following a Navy victory that season, said “desire” had won for his team. And who could argue with that conclusion because Beagle, guard Glen Benzi, Weaver and Craig played the entire game. The Mids then went on to work its magic once more, upsetting Mississippi 20-0 in the Sugar Bowl.
And “The Team Named Desire” has been enshrined for all time as one of the most memorable in Navy’s storied football history.
(Jack Clary is a noted sports journalist and award-winning author of more than 60 books. He has written three histories on Navy football and the Army-Navy game and for over a quarter century wrote the cover story for the annual Army-Navy game program. Prior to his prolific free lance writing career, Clary was a sports writer and columnist for The Associated Press, and newspapers in New York and Boston. He has written and produced television documentaries and produced more than 200 articles for magazines such as TV Guide and The Saturday Evening Post. Clary is a graduate of Fordham University where he is a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame; and of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism where he held the Grantland Rice Fellowship.)