PHILADELPHIA, DEC. 3 -- Navy showed no lack of character today in the 89th installment of its fabled football rivalry with Army. One player was carried off the field after the opening kickoff; linebacker Mark Pimpo, who vowed to play despite a bruised knee, refused help when leaving the field after reinjuring his leg, and quarterback Alton Grizzard started despite a knee bruise, which forced him out of the game once, as did a bruised shoulder.

But all of the grit wasn't enough. Navy scored the last points of the day, but it was Army that came away with a 20-15 victory.

"This is a tough one to accept but I feel we've made great improvement," Navy Coach Elliot Uzelac said of his team, which ended the season 3-8. "I told the players that nothing lasts forever. Things will change. We're going through some hard times, but we'll have our day."

For Army, 9-2 and bound for a date with Alabama in the Sun Bowl, these may be the best times since the days of Heisman Trophy winners Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. The nine wins are the most the Cadets, who clinched the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, have had in the regular season since 1949.

But today the Midshipmen gave them all they could handle. In the final period, after being bottled up for most of the second half and holding only a 13-9 lead, the Cadets drove 60 yards in 12 plays, using up 5:25.

When quarterback Bryan McWilliams carried eight yards for the score, it effectively ended Navy's hopes for an upset. The Midshipmen came back with a touchdown, James Bradley scoring on a two-yard plunge with 1:35 remaining, but by then the best the Midshipmen could realistically hope for was a tie. The point became moot when Grizzard missed a two-point pass attempt to Carl Jordan and Army recovered the onside kick attempt.

That ended what could best be described as a war of attrition. With both teams using wishbone offenses, passes were almost nonexistent. The Cadets threw three times, completing two for 30 yards. Navy had 15 attempts, but nine of them came on its final possession.

Instead, both teams relied on the run, Navy carrying the ball 50 times, the Cadets 65. Army entered the contest with the nation's third-best rushing attack, averaging 357 yards. Today, it was limited to 246; Uzelac claimed that none of them were gained without "a little bloodletting," but he had to concede the efficiency of the Cadets' offense.

Army was successful on four of four fourth-down conversions, the first coming from its 22. Twice, the Cadets' fourth-down successes extended drives that resulted in scores.

"I went for them because I thought we could make them. I had a good feeling about them," said Army Coach Jim Young. "They may not always result in touchdowns, but they give you good field position and let you take more time off the clock."

McWilliams bedeviled Navy the most. The sophomore led everyone with 100 yards rushing, gaining 25 of them in that crucial fourth-quarter drive. McWilliams gained four yards on a fourth and three from the Navy 18 but just as important was a 17-yard pass completion to Doug Baker on a third and six from the 44.

"I said the key for us defensively was going to be first down," said Pimpo. "We did a good job stopping them on those, but the difference was Army came up with the big plays on third down. We had them where we wanted, but we didn't slam the door . . . it seemed every time they needed a big play {McWilliams} came up with it."

Prior to the contest, Uzelac said an ideal scenario would involve a close game entering the fourth quarter, with the Midshipmen in position to make a run at the victory. From the start, it looked as if things would go according to that plan.

Getting good field position on each of its four possessions in the opening half, Navy drove into Army territory on three occasions. Keeping the ball for an average of nine plays per possession, the Midshipmen also were able to keep the Cadets' pounding, methodical offense off the field.

With 7:48 remaining in the first quarter, Navy drove from its 35, maintaining possession on a fourth and two from the Cadets 37 when Grizzard carried for three yards. The march stalled three plays later, but Ted Fundoukos kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Midshipmen their first lead over an NCAA Division I-A football team this season.

Navy seemed unable to handle prosperity. Army led, 10-6, at halftime, getting points immediately after each Navy score. After Fundoukos' first field goal, the Cadets moved 63 yards in 16 plays, fullback Ben Barnett scoring on a one-yard plunge with 12:05 remaining in the second quarter.

The Midshipmen had an opportunity to halt the drive. On second and seven from the Navy 19, the Cadets ran a reverse to split end Sean Jordan. Navy defensive tackle Troy Holland had the play covered, forcing Jordan back to about the 35, but was unable to make the stop. Jordan managed to scramble back to the 21 -- a manageable two-yard loss. Four plays later, Barnett scored.

Navy got another Fundoukos field goal, this one for 34 yards. There was only 3:57 remaining in the half, but Army came back in almost startling fashion. On second and 10 from his 45, Army halfback Calvin Cass ran for 30 yards. On the next play, McWilliams carried for another 11. Navy's defense stiffened somewhat, but Keith Walker was able to kick a 22-yard field goal.

Walker got another field goal with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter, but Fundoukos kicked his third some four minutes later. That gave Uzelac his wish, a 13-9 game entering the final 15 minutes.

"It was a real hard-fought game, but we weren't quite good enough," said Uzelac. "They're {the Navy players} hurting inside that locker room right now . . . I don't think people know what these kids go through."

Army 0 10 3 7 20 Navy 3 3 3 6 15 SCORING

Navy: FG Fundoukos 44.

Army: Barnett 1 run (Walker Kick).

Navy: FG Fundoukos 34.

Army: FG Walker 22.

Army: FG Walker 35.

Navy: FG Fundoukos 34.

Army: McWilliams 8 run (Walker kick).

Navy: Bradley 2 run (pass failed).

Attendance: 68,435

Army Navy First downs 16 14 Rushes-yards 65-246 50-173 Passing yards 30 77 Return yards 23 16 Passing 2-3-0 7-15-0 Punts-average 3-40 3-39 Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0 Penalties-yards 3-15 1-10 Time o

Army: McWilliams 21-100, Mayweather 16-41, Barnett 18-57, Cass 9-50, Jordan 1-minus 2.

Navy: Grizzard 20-62, Archer 15-54, Sims 9-27, Bradley 6-21. PASSING

Army: McWilliams 2-3-0, 30 yards.

Navy: Grizzard 7-15-0, 77 yards. RECEIVING

Army: S. Jordan 1-13, Baker 1-17.

Navy: Archer 4-28, Dawson 1-24, Voss 1-15, C. Jordan 1-10.