PHILADELPHIA, DEC. 5 -- A most frustrating football season for the Naval Academy reached a most appropriate conclusion today.

Behind an offensive line weakened by the last-minute suspension of two starters for what a source described as "school reasons," the Midshipmen struggled to season-lows of 47 offensive plays and 191 yards total offense in a 17-3 loss to arch-rival Army before 68,000 at Veterans Stadium.

The Midshipmen, who finished with a 2-9 record -- their worst since 1970 -- have lost 16 of their last 18 games and have not defeated a Division I-A opponent in 21 games. Also, this is the first time Navy has lost to Army in successive seasons since 1971-72.

The Cadets (5-6), who led, 3-0, at halftime, rushed for 212 yards in the second half without attempting a pass and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The second touchdown came at the end of a 13-play, 64-yard drive that used 4:22 of the 5:01 that remained after a 30-yard field goal by Navy's Ted Fundoukos had cut the lead to 10-3.

Freshman halfback Mike Mayweather led Army with 119 yards on 25 carries. But sophomore fullback Ben Barnett had 78 yards on 14 carries (70 in the second half), senior halfback Andy Peterson had 71 yards on 14 carries and senior quarterback Tory Crawford, who attempted just four passes, had 55 yards on 18 carries.

Two hours before the game, the Naval Academy released a statement that said senior center Matt Felt, who earlier this week was named second-team all-East and honorable mention all-America, and senior guard Joe Brennan would not be in uniform because of "an administrative matter not related to football."

The Privacy Act of 1974 prevents academy offcials from elaborating on the matter, said sports information director Tom Bates. However Cdr. Stephen E. Becker, the academy's public affairs officer, said that the action against the two players was related to academics, conduct, honor code, physical condition or professional aptitude. Bates added the matter was not drug-related.

"It's a process that's been going on for a while and is still not complete," Becker said. "It was a decision made last night by the superintendent {Rear Adm. Ronald F. Marryott} and concurred with by the coach. The coach made the announcement.

"{Marryott} deemed that it was not appropriate for them to represent the Naval Academy on the field today," Becker said. He added Felt and Brennan are "still midshipmen at the Naval Academy," but had not traveled here with the team Friday.

After the game, Coach Elliot Uzelac refused to comment on the situation.

During the game, the Midshipmen's offensive line had a difficult time opening holes and, as a result, their wishbone offense suffered.

"It was definitely frustrating at times," said sophomore Willis Herweyer, who received his first significant playing time of the season as Felt's replacement.

Army, which rushed for 103 yards on 29 carries in the first half, began to dominate at the start of the third quarter and got stronger as the second half went on. The Cadets rushed for 17 yards on their first possession in the third period, 52 on their second, 81 on their third and 64 on their fourth and last.

Navy's first possession of the second half consisted of a 15-yard drive from its 37 that ended when tight end Kevin Voss dropped a third-down pass that would have given the Midshipmen a first down inside the Army 40. Its second consisted of three plays and a 47-yard punt by Andy Mueck to the Army 19.

"Army just outexecuted us; it's as simple as that," said Uzelac, whose team converted just four of 12 third downs while allowing Army to convert 10 of 18. "Their defense did an excellent job, and they made the plays when they had to and we didn't."

After that punt, the Cadets put together an 81-yard, 14-play touchdown drive that consumed 6:39. Peterson's one-yard run with an option pitch from Crawford gave Army a 10-0 lead with 11:02 left in the game.

But Navy responded. Sparked by a 39-yard pass from Alton Grizzard to wide receiver Don Hughes, the Midshipmen moved to a third and five at the Army 18. When James Bradley was stopped just short of the first down, Fundoukos kicked a 30-yard field goal that made the score 10-3 with 5:01 left. It was Fundoukos' 11th consecutive successful attempt -- a Navy record.

"We had five minutes to go and we wanted to get the three on the board," Uzelac said. "If we had stopped them, and we had our opportunity, we would have had plenty of time to score, go for the two-point conversion and win."

Army took over at its 36, converted a third-down-and-seven from the 39, a third-and-four from Navy's 32 and another third-and-four from the 19 en route to a seven-yard touchdown run by Crawford with 42 seconds to play.

"I couldn't picture any better way to end my career," Crawford said. "I know that there's a God becaue when I saw the hole, I knew that I would not be denied {the touchdown}."

Army forced Navy to punt on the game's fourth play and then drove from its 30-yard line to the Navy 23 for Rambusch's field goal, his longest of the year.

With 6:32 left in the half, Army took over at its 15. Navy held on three plays and seemed to have been prsented with an excellent opportunity when Rambusch, in to punt, had to leap to make a one-handed catch of the snap and was then tackled near the 10. But the Midshipmen were offside on the play and the drive continued.

Army moved to a first down at the Navy 34 with less than a minute remaining in the half. Crawford then scrambled away from defensive linemen Troy Holland and Mike Jimenez and completed an 11-yard pass to fullback Ben Barnett. But Navy held and Rambusch's 41-yard field goal attempt 15 seconds before halftime was wide left.

"I'm not even thinking about the season right now," Uzelac said. "I'm just thinking about this game and this one hurts. This one hurts." INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING -- Navy: Grizzard 17-46, Smith 13-45, Bradley 6-31, Vitelli 2-6, Holl 3-5, Hughes 1-minus 1. Army: Mayweather 25-119, Barnett 14-78, Peterson 14-71, Crawford 18-55, Jordan 1-minus 8.

PASSING -- Navy: Grizzard 3-5-0, 59 yards. Army: Crawford 2-4-0, 22.

RECEIVING -- Navy: Hughes 2-49, Neumann 1-10. Army: Peterson 1-11, Barnett 1-11.