In what has become a Navy ritual around Thanksgiving, the Midshipmen left Army battered, bruised, bewildered and saddled with a 33-6 whipping at Veterans Stadium today.
With their eighth victory in the last 11 years over the Cadets, the Mids grabbed the lead in the series for the first time in 59 seasons. Navy, which has a Dec. 14 date with Houston in the Garden State Bowl at Giants Stadium, piled up 440 total yards and limited their arch rivals to 144.
Quarterback Fred Reitzel, who had been having trouble hitting his receivers, had no problem finding them today, connecting on 12 of 18 tosses for 138 yards and one touchdown. The senior also scored twice as the Mids stormed to a 20-0 halftime advantage and never looked back.
Steve Fehr put the boot to the Cadets, tying a school record with four field goals, the longest from 50 yards. The junior also set a Navy mark for most field goals and points in a season with 17 and 74, respectively.
Add a 144-yard rushing effort by junior tailback Ed Meyers and it was easy to see why Navy owned this game from the start.
"Our defense played very well and Reitzel was good today," said Navy coach George Welsh, who has seven vitories against Army in his eight seasons at Navy. "Army has some good athletes and I can see them closing the gap in a couple of years."
The Cadets were no match for the Mids today. Navy marched downfield the first time it saw the ball and took a 3-0 lead when Fehr bombed a 50-yard three-pointer, breaking the record of 49 yards he set earlier this year.
As if they needed any breaks, the Mids got a splendid opportunity seconds later when Army fullback Warren Waldroff fumbled and Navy defensive end Travis Wallington recovered at the Cadet 15.
Three plays later, Reitzel scooted around the right side from nine yards out for the six points. Fehr's boot was good and Navy was up, 10-0, with 7:31 left in the opening period.
"It was supposed to be a pass play but my recievers were covered and I took off," said Reitzel, who was selected as the Navy player of the game. "We never expect the Army-Navy game to be esy but right now our personnel are a little better. We were fired up and jumped on top in a hurry. Our running game was working and that opened up the pass."
Army, which managed only 53 yards and three first downs in the first half, could do little to stop the Navy onslaught. Army tried a variation of defenses but they confused no one. Navy simply kept possession of the ball until it scored or punted far enough to pin the Cadets deep in their own territory.
"Navy plays the game the way it's supposed to be played," said an impressed Army Coach Ed Cavanaugh. "They ran, passed, blocked and tackled well. They beat the hell out of us."
In between Cadets punts, Fehr's foot was putting points on the board. He came on when a Navy drive stalled at the Cadet 21 and made a 38-yard attempt for a 13-0 lead with 8:20 to play in the first half.
Army almost pulled off a doozy of a play but punter Joe Sartiano, who played quarterback at Marshall high in Fairfax, Va., just missed a wide-open Kevin Murphy at the Navy 30, after he faked a punt and passed from his 43.
Minutes later, Reitzel capped a nineplay drive with a four-yard run for a score. An 18-yard holding penalty failed to thwart Reitzel, who hit three passes on the drive, and the Mids took a 20-0 advantage to the locker room at intermission.
"We did a good job against the rush, especially against (Gerald) Walker," said end Mike Rouser, who, along with Wallington and linebackers Ted Dumbauld and Mike Kronzer, held Army to 87 net yards rushing. "They have good receivers and we knew we had to keep pressure on their quarterback. We wanted to make sure he (Jerrly Bennett) didn't have any time."
Walker, who needed 160 yards to become the third rusher in Cadet history to reach 1,000 yards, finished with 77 yards on 14 carries and scored his team's line touchdown on a sparkling 26-yard jaunt in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 23-6.
Navy bounced right back. Reitzel, using Meyers extensively, engineered another time-consuming march, this one 63 yards, for another touchdown. David Dent, who caught six passes for 66 yards, grabbed a nine-yard bullet from Reitzel for the score.
Army tried the old pass-from-punt-formation-play again. It didn't work this time, either as Jeff Shoemake and John Foley almost beheaded intended reciever Rick Dauch just as he was about to catch Sartiano's perfect pass.
Taking over at the Army 32, the Mids faled to move and Fehr missed a 45-yard filed goal try.
"I knew when I hit that one, it was off," said Fehr, who has missed only six field goals this year. "The others were hit perfect. I talked to Tony Franklin (Philadelphia Eagles kicker) before the game about kicking but he didn't give me any tips. I didn't give him any either."
Fehr closed out his fine afternoon and the scoring with a 32-yard field goal with 3:01 left to play.
Meyers, who became the leading rusher in the history of the Army-Navy games (has a total of 328 yards in three seasons), came into today's game needing 187 yards to reach 1,000. Welsh kept him in the game longer than usual but the 5-foot-9, 200 pound junior could't break that long one.
"I was hoping to get the 1,000 but I'm not disapponted," said Meyers, who probably will get the necessary 43 yards against houston. "I came within a tackle or two of breaking a long one. Hey, we won big. I can't be mad about the game. I think everyone played well."