President Donald Trump has arrived at West Point, which will play host to the annual Army-Navy football game for the first time since World War II.
The 121st meeting between the service academy rivals kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, and will not be held on neutral ground as it has been for the past 77 years.
Instead the game will be played at West Point’s venerable Michie Stadium. Both schools agreed to move it from its customary site in Philadelphia after attendance limits were placed on outdoor events in Pennsylvania because of concerns over the novel coronavirus, and it was Army’s turn to be the home team.
The game was last held at a service academy for two years during World War II at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with games played at both West Point and Annapolis.
‘We are excited we are able to play this game here for only the fourth time in history,’ Army coach Jeff Monken said. ‘The state of our world right now has forced the game away from Philadelphia. It will be special to play it here. It will be very nostalgic and really a great piece in the history of this rivalry.’
President Donald Trump arrives at New York Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, New York on his way to West Point
Trump is attending the the annual Army-Navy football game, held at West Point for the first time since World War II
The Brigade of Midshipmen from the Naval Academy march on the field prior to a game between the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen at Michie Stadium
The United States Corps of Cadets stands in formation after marching on to the field before the game
Navy mascot Bill the Goat inspects a formation of Midshipmen before a game between Army and Navy on Saturday
‘There’s a chill that goes through you unlike any other game,’ Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. ‘It’s the craziest thing because you’re in the locker room and it’s quiet, a little bit serene, and then you step outside and there’s this rush and you know it’s different.’
No outside fans will be allowed at Michie Stadium, which has a capacity 38,000 instead of nearly 70,000 at Lincoln Financial Field. But at least the entire Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets (about 9,000 total) will be there, and President Trump is scheduled to fly in.
Navy (3-6) leads Army (7-2) 61-52-7 in the series, which started in 1890 when West Point cadet Dennis Michie accepted a challenge from Navy to play a football game.
At that first game, the Midshipmen arrived at West Point by ferry, and with one year of football experience to none for Army they easily prevailed 24-0 on The Plain before about 2,000 spectators.
The Black Knights returned the favor the next year at Annapolis, winning 32-16 and a football rivalry like no other was beginning to blossom.
According to Gene Schorr´s, ‘The Army-Navy Game,’ players on both teams personally congratulated one another during an evening celebration in the Navy boathouse after that initial Army victory and cadet Michie and Navy quarterback Worth Bagley, the stars of those teams, shook hands, looking forward to the next meeting.
Seven years later both men were killed in the Spanish-American War.
Navy (3-6) leads Army (7-2) 61-52-7 in the series, which started in 1890 when West Point cadet Dennis Michie accepted a challenge from Navy to play a football game
‘There’s so much history in both of these schools, so we’re playing for so much more than just football,’ Army senior offensive lineman J.B. Hunter said. ‘We’re stoked for this opportunity. For us, it’s very important. We don’t want anyone coming in our back yard (and winning). We’re just going to hope that what we do is going to work.’
Navy is unbeaten in three games at West Point and won the previous encounter 13-0 in 1943, when the great Glenn Davis was a plebe at West Point. The Midshipmen won last year’s game 31-7 behind the stellar play of senior quarterback Malcolm Perry, who rushed for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
Both teams have had quarterback issues this year. Injuries have forced Monken to use six players at the position. Niumatalolo started freshman Xavier Arline in last week’s 19-6 loss to Tulsa, the team’s fourth straight setback, and he could get the nod.
‘He did some good things last week, but he was also a freshman last week,’ Niumatalolo said. ‘But what better stage to prepare you for the biggest game of the year than playing the 22nd-ranked team in the country. We’re definitely encouraged by that.’
Army cadets march on the field before an NCAA college football game against Navy on Saturday
The Naval Academy color guard stands on the midfield logo before a game between the Golden Knights and Midshipmen
Junior Christian Anderson was the starter for Army when the season began. Monken is keeping his choice a secret. Army’s triple option is averaging just under 300 yards rushing per game to 185.3 for the Midshipmen.
Navy senior tri-captain Billy Honaker will wear No. 68 in honor of former offensive lineman David Forney, who died on campus at age 22 in February 2019.
The number was not issued this season, but the team honored Forney by wearing a sticker on the backs of their helmets that pictures him running out of the tunnel at the 2019 Army-Navy game carrying the American flag with the word ‘Brotherhood’ underneath.
If Navy wins and Army defeats Air Force next week, the Midshipmen will retain the Commander-in-Chief´s Trophy, emblematic of supremacy among the academies.
Navy is the first team in service academy football history to play both of its rivals on the road in a season. The Midshipmen lost 40-7 at Air Force in early October.