Signal the fleet to start honking those horns and tell the moms to hang up some crepe paper, please. This half-terrible, half-wonderful Navy team obviously doesn't have the sense to know when it should lose, and the Midshipmen just went out and beat Army today, 17-7.
Here's the story: Navy came into Veterans Stadium with no more right to win the big one over Army than Vassar. The Cadets are going to the Peach Bowl, and that wishbone hadn't been stopped by anybody, much less the gimpy little Midshipmen.
Surprise. What Navy did was outrush the Cadets, lay some serious hurt on them, and finally outwant them in what was a memorable upset. Check out this footnote: Napoleon McCallum, on the day he finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting, ran for 217 yards on 41 mostly gorgeous plays from scrimmage. It was a stunning farewell performance from the Academy's first fifth-year senior, who leaves with 26 school marks, the NCAA all-purpose yardage record and one admiral's insignia.
"Of all the games in the last five years, this is the greatest one for me," said McCallum, holding the insignia given him by Adm. James Watkins, chief of Naval Operations, after the game. "This is what it was all for."
It was a game they had no right to win, a 4-7 team with a second-string, sore-kneed quarterback in Bob Misch, who today threw for 84 yards and one touchdown. The Brigade of Midshipmen screamed itself voiceless and spun its caps deliriously as Navy, which had lost five games by four points or fewer, won the one that meant the most over an Army team that is 8-3.
"After this season, in terms of being as frustrating a season as I've ever experienced, this is sweet," Coach Gary Tranquill said.
A sellout crowd of 71,640 got what it paid for: a splendid old rivalry between two schools meeting for the 86th time. Each team scored on its first possession, and it remained a 7-7 thriller for the next 2 1/2 quarters, a slugging match of a game played out on the ground.
But Army may have lost when quarterback Rob Healy incurred a dislocated shoulder shortly before the end of the first half as he was stopped for no gain on perhaps the big play of the game, a goal-line stand by Navy on fourth down at the two. He was replaced by Tory Crawford, a sophomore who had gained 671 yards rushing this season and alternated as starter.
But he could not move Army, which had only Clarence Jones' 10-yard scoring run in the first period. Navy got a 13-yard touchdown pass from Misch to sophomore split end Troy Saunders on the opening drive of the game. That was it until Chuck Smith's five-yard touchdown run 8:26 from game's end, and Todd Solomon added a 26-yard field goal with 1:15 left.
Healy, a senior, had driven Army to what seemed a sure touchdown with 3:26 left in the first half. He completed a 30-yard pass to tight end Rob Dickerson to get to the Navy 42, the only Army attempt through the air in the half.
The Cadets drove on to the seven, where they faced third down and six. Jones was stopped just short of the first-down marker at the two. Army opted to go for it on fourth and one.
Healy took the snap and dove forward, but he was met by defensive back Steve Brady, and the noise of what seemed the entire U.S. Navy. He didn't gain an inch, and when he finally was able to get up he was bent double by a dislocated shoulder. Navy took over and drove to the Army 45 before punting to end the half.
Navy had been in what it calls a "goal-line stick" defense, leaving a hole for the quarterback option which Brady was supposed to fill on a stunt. He caught Healy, who carried six times for 15 yards, dead on and fell on top of him, dislocating his shoulder.
"I just sliced in and drew a bead on him," said Brady, a senior. "That's got to be the tackle of my career. I knew I'd stopped him, no question." Army originally had intended the play to go to fullback Doug Black, its leading rusher, who had 64 yards and seemed unstoppable at the time inside. Coach Jim Young changed the call at the last second.
"It was a bad call on my part," Young said. "I switched the play to the option."
Healy saw that Brady was in a stunt, about to fill the hole he was supposed to go through. But the play was to go on a quick snap and he couldn't change the play at the line of scrimmage.
"I wanted to audible, but I didn't have time," Healy said. "They just called the right stunt at the right time."
Navy's second touchdown drive began with 14:19 left in the game. The Midshipmen covered 77 yards, Smith diving through the middle for the score. The drive took 13 plays and 5:53, and was run mainly by Smith, who had 63 yards on nine carries for the day.
Army still had plenty of time, taking over on its 21 with 8:21 remaining. But the Cadets gave it up just six plays later, Crawford throwing incomplete on third and six. Navy regained possession with 5:56 remaining at its 33, and the Midshipmen effectively ended the game with a demoralizing, 11-play drive that resulted in Solomon's field goal. McCallum carried on eight of the plays for 58 yards.
What was surprising about Navy's victory was not just the difference in records; that happens all the time in this series, which stands at 41-38-7, Midshipmen. But Navy flat stopped a team ranked second in the country in rushing and averaging 35.8 points a game, fifth best.
"Navy really took the game to us," Young said. "They controlled the time of possession and the yardage -- something we like to do."
The Midshipmen outgained the Cadets 397 yards to 288, with 319 on the ground to 192. They had 27 first downs to 19, and held the ball for 35:10 compared to 24:50. Neither team passed significantly. Misch completed eight of 16 for 84 yards. Army threw just eight passes all day.
"I thought we could control the ball," Tranquill said. "I just had a feeling we could. That was our intention, to keep that wishbone off the field."
Following tradition, the game settled into Philadelphia's consciousness and took precedence over everything for a day, including standards of conduct.
There were two major, heated skirmishes well over an hour before game time. A squad of cadets rushed the Navy battleship and was driven back across the field. Twenty minutes later, a pitched battle involving about 50 from each side began on the Army end.
Then came McCallum. He set one more NCAA record, as career all-purpose plays leader, passing Tony Dorsett's 1,140. His 41 carries was an individual high. He finished with 1,327 yards rushing this season and 4,179 for his career, 17th all-time, and became the 22nd to rush for 4,000 yards. His all-purpose total of 7,172 shatters Darrin Nelson's 6,885 set at Stanford.
"This is the one I'll remember," McCallum said. "It's even better than what I thought it would be when I came back."