With one notable exception, Army and Navy seem evenly matched for the 91st edition of their football rivalry in Philadelphia Saturday.

That exception, and the principal reason the Cadets are one-touchdown favorites, is left halfback Mike Mayweather, whose 4,212 rushing yards are the most ever gained by a service academy running back.

"We're two pretty evenly matched teams, but they've got Mayweather," said Navy Coach George Chaump. "He doesn't have big size {5 feet 8, 190 pounds}, but he has great balance and he makes yardage on his own. He makes an opening. He may appear to be stopped dead, but he squirts out of there and keeps going. He definitely can hurt you."

Mayweather was named a first-team all-America by the Football Writers Association of America, the first Army runner so honored since Pete Dawkins and Bob Anderson in 1958. He also was selected as ECAC player of the year and was elected a cocaptain by his teammates. He admits even he didn't dream about those achievements when he entered West Point in 1987.

"They really weren't in my mind," Mayweather said. "I know those are some of the things people dream about, but coming to West Point to play football for me was a matter of trying to regain some of the confidence I had in high school.

"I hadn't drawn much attention from recruiters {despite three all-state campaigns in Missouri}, so one of my real goals was to prove I could play at the college level. When you work hard, things sometimes go your way, and I've had a lot of things break right for me."

In each of his four seasons as the catalyst of Coach Jim Young's wishbone offense, Mayweather has increased his rushing yardage -- from 762 as a plebe to 1,022 to 1,177 to 1,251. By the end of his junior year, he had shattered Glenn Davis's Army career record set in 1946. No other back in Army history has topped 1,000 yards twice. Mayweather has done it three times.

"More than the yardage, I think I've been able to improve from game to game," Mayweather said. "If you sit back and relish success, you're not going to get better. My goal has been to improve as I go along and the numbers are just part of the proof.

"People have paid more attention to me than I'd like. What they're doing is taking me away and giving the lanes to (quarterback) Willie McMillian. He's come on and the key for us is for him to get yards. The key for me is to get the tough yards inside. For me now, it's 75 to 80 percent inside running."

Despite the attention, Mayweather has rushed for 100 yards or more in eight of 10 games this season, and has 21 100-yard games in his career. However, none of those individual figures -- or seasonal honors -- are on Mayweather's mind as he prepares for his final collegiate game.

"I might have an opportunity to play in an all-star game, but in effect this is my last football game," Mayweather said. "It's that way for a lot of the people playing Saturday and when you're playing your last football game, you want to go out playing your best.

"That's the essence of the Army-Navy game and why I think it's the best rivalry there is. We're not going on to the pros -- for us, this is the game. And to graduate with a loss to Navy is the worst possible thing."

After enjoying two victories over Navy, Mayweather experienced the agony of defeat a year ago. It was not something he cares to repeat.

"It's not a one-week thing, it's something you remember," Mayweather said. "It carries over the whole year and comes back to haunt you. You spend the whole offseason thinking, 'What went wrong?' "