Navy coach George Chaump isn't sure why Army is a 6 1/2-point favorite over the Midshipmen in today's game.
"You try to figure where they came up with the 6 1/2-point Army favorite. There's not too much difference between the teams," Chaump said. "It's a lot closer than you think."Both teams are 5-5 and Navy is trying for its first winning season since 1982, when the Middies were 6-5. The Midshipmen beat Army last year on a final-second field goal after losing the three previous seasons.
It will be the final game for Army coach Jim Young, who is 4-3 against Navy. He will remain at West Point as part of a performance enhancement program.
"I've been coaching 35 years," Young said. "I just felt it was time to quit."
Young insists that his retirement doesn't give the Cadets a psychological edge.
"I'm into it as a last game, but that doesn't ride on my mind all the time. I don't think the players focus on it every play," he said. "They're just into winning."
Chaump agrees with Young.
"Naturally, it's meaningful for them, but I think during the game the players won't be thinking that it's Chaump's first game or Young's last game or who won last year," Chaump said.
Coaches and players feel an extra incentive to provide an exciting, entertaining game for the service people in the Persian Gulf.
"We have friends over there now, so many people we know," Navy quarterback Alton Grizzard said. "It's an extra incentive to do well."
The Army-Navy game hasn't had an impact on the rankings for more than 25 years, but the tradition and the pregame parade of the Cadet corps and Midshipmen brigade still makes the event a happening.
Army features a wishbone offense directed by quarterback Willie McMillian, and also has running back Mike Mayweather. He is the leading career rusher in the history of service academy football with 4,212 yards, including 1,251 this season.
McMillian is fifth nationally in rushing with a 125.1-yard average and 14th in all-purpose running at 152.1. McMillian has run for 774 yards.
Army has 3,280 yards rushing and 688 passing. The Cadets have thrown just 60 passes, completing 27. Split end Myreon Williams caught 12 for 399 yards and four touchdowns.
Navy has a balanced offense with 1,557 yards rushing and 1,680 passing. Grizzard, an excellent option quarterback, has completed 108 of 215 passes and thrown 11 touchdowns.
Grizzard also is the team's second-best rusher with 378 yards, behind Jason Pace's 548.