PHILADELPHIA, DEC. 4 -- Earlier this week, Navy football coach Elliot Uzelac was in a state of loquacious anxiety. At his weekly news conference on Wednesday, he wanted to talk Army-Navy. He told stories on himself. He theatrically described Cadets players, adding John Madden-esque sound effects for emphasis. He talked and touted the game until there was nothing more to be asked, nothing more to be said.

Today, Uzelac said he's had it with talking Army-Navy. He said he wants to play the game.

"We've been talking about it for three weeks," he said while waiting for CBS-TV's Brent Musburger to finish taping an interview with freshman quarterback Alton Grizzard that began after all but a few of the Midshipmen had left for the locker room. "It's just that time to quit talking about it and let's play football.

"I'm excited about it," he added impatiently. "But to be honest with you, I'm just sick and tired of all the interviews and the hoopla and everything. I just want to play the game. Let's just find out who's the best."

Saturday, starting at 2 p.m., Army (4-6) and Navy (2-8) will do precisely that before a sellout crowd of about 67,000 and a worldwide television (WDVM-TV-9) and radio audience of millions.

On offense, the Cadets, the nation's sixth-best rushing team, are led by senior quarterback Tory Crawford (561 yards rushing), who missed four games in the middle of the season because of a knee injury; freshman halfback Mike Mayweather (660 yards rushing); sophomore fullback Ben Barnett (545 yards rushing), and senior halfback Andy Peterson (413 yards rushing).

Defensively, they have a first-team all-East cornerback in senior Dave Berdan (four interceptions, 83 tackles) and two fine linebackers in senior Ray Griffiths (95 tackles) and junior Troy Lingley (98 tackles). Junior punter Bit Rambusch (41.1 yards per punt) also was first-team all-East.

But back to today's activities, which also included Army's workout being concluded by a ceremony to mark the end of a 152-mile, 20-hour run 13 members of Army's math department began last night in West Point, N.Y.

(The teachers had decided this would be the best way to make sure each of the Cadets received his envelope of Spirit-Grams West Point citizens had composed during the week. "I feel sleepy, but good now," said Maj. Ron Johnson. "I don't know about tomorrow, though.")

"Doesn't anyone here understand we've got a schedule?" Uzelac finally wondered as Grizzard's interview wound down.

"Let's go, kid!" Uzelac said the moment after a technician removed the microphone from Grizzard's shirt.

"Yes, sir!" Grizzard replied as he bounded up and out of what, during baseball season, is the first-base dugout.

As the first plebe to start for Navy against Army since Mike Roban in 1974, Grizzard will almost certainly be feeling intense pressure Saturday.

It will be his wishbone against Crawford's and, as Uzelac said earlier this week, "{Crawford} is a gifted athlete and, with four years experience, he has complete command of the offense."

"It's the biggest game I've ever played," Grizzard said today after Navy's light workout. "All that's going through my mind right now is to not make any mistakes."

During the workout, however, he was extremely loose. He chatted with CBS analyst Pat Haden on topics ranging from his father's naval career to the gloves he has been wearing in practice and may wear in Saturday's game. He explained to a radio reporter that his name was pronouned AL-TON, not ALL-TON and then didn't flinch when the first question began, "ALL-TON, what do you . . ."

"I don't know," said Grizzard, who is Navy's leading rusher (473 yards), "all that stuff probably won't hit me until I'm out of here -- out of here, as in out of the academy. You know, until I'm a lot older and I realize what's going on."

Senior running back Chuck Smith isn't that much older than Grizzard. Yet, he knows exactly what's going on.

"It's funny," Smith said, "this year is kind of different. Most years when you're here {at Veterans Stadium}, it's so big and there's so much noise that you don't, you can't, understand. It's just like . . . it's just all happening. But now I feel like I can put it all in context. This is my last time and I can sit back and look around and I can appreciate the fact that I get the opportunity to play out here."

Smith can especially appreciate it this year because, for him, there almost wasn't an Army-Navy game this season. He sprained one of his knees in Navy's fifth game of the season, missed the next four games and then injured cartilage in his other knee early in the 10th game of the season, a 31-22 victory at Delaware three weeks ago. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Nov. 16, but Uzelac said today Smith will start at fullback Saturday.

"I haven't had a chance to play as much as I would have liked this season," said Smith, who probably will end his career ranked fifth on Navy's all-time rushing list despite missing six complete games and extensive portions of four others because of injuries during his junior and senior years.

"I just want to leave all the football I have left in me out here. I don't want to have any regrets, that I could have done this or that. I want to do it all tomorrow."