The longest wait in the history of the Army-Navy football game is finally over, and neither coach -- George Welsh of Navy nor Ed Cavanaugh of Army -- is sure how the layoff will affect his team Saturday at Veterans Stadium.

Both teams played last three weeks ago and have been waiting ever since. The game was scheduled originally for Nov. 28, but in order to be televised nationally, it was pushed back a week. It will be televised locally on WJLA-TV-7 at 3:30 p.m.

"You never know what to expect when you go this long without having played a game," Welsh said. "I don't know which team will show up for us. We won't know if the layoff helped or hurt until we play. Emotion won't be a problem, though. This is Army."

Cavanaugh said the layoff could be just what his team needed.

"I've never been through a layoff this long, but I think it helped," he said. "We took a whole week off and healed up a lot of people. We're ready to play now."

On the surface, it looks as if Army doesn't have much of a chance. The Cadets have lost seven of the last eight games in the series -- winning only the 1977 contest. They are 3-7 this season and scored only 22 points in the last four games -- all losses.

Navy is 7-3 and the elite team among service academies. The Midshipmen will face Ohio State in the Liberty Bowl Dec. 30, regardless of Saturday's outcome. Navy leads the series, 38-37-6.

Navy also will retain possession of the Commander-in-Chief's trophy, presented annually to the winner of the football competition among Army, Navy and Air Force. An Army victory would give all three academies 1-1 records, but Navy, having won it outright last year, would retain possession. Navy defeated Air Force, 30-13, and Army lost to the Falcons, 7-3.

The two most productive runners in their schools' histories will be on the field. Both will be wearing No. 40 and will be after their schools' single-season rushing records.

Eddie Meyers is Navy's career rushing leader and is only 93 yards from establishing a new single-season record. Meyers has gained 1,199 yards. The record, 1,292 yards in 1977, is held by Joe Gattuso Jr.

Army's answer to Meyers is Gerald Walker, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior from Greenville, S.C., who went to West Point as a walk-on (or is that march-on?) from the regular Army. Walker has rushed for 1,018 yards and needs only 92 yards to surpass Charlie Jarvis' single-season record. Walker also is Army's leading pass receiver with 24 catches.

"He (Meyers) has everything going his way," Walker said of his rival. "The team is playing well, and he's also getting a lot of yards on his own."

Walker has found the yards tough to gain in recent weeks, as teams have put eight- and nine-man lines against him.

"I'm used to it now, and I expect to see something like that Saturday (today)," he said. "If we're going to win, we're going to have to throw the ball, and we're going to have to put together some long drives to give our defense a chance to rest."

The key matchup in the line will be Navy middle guard Tim Jordan against Army center Dan Enright. "I remember Jordan from last year, but I'm looking for Danny to handle him," Walker said.