Just a few weeks ago, not many people outside the Naval Academy knew much about Brian Madden, the Midshipmen's sophomore backup quarterback. They do now, that's for sure. Navy didn't just win the 100th Army-Navy game, 19-9, Saturday. It saw the future, too. It's built around Madden. And it may be bright indeed.
If Chris McCoy took a 9-3 Navy team to the Aloha Bowl three years ago, where will Madden carry them in the next two seasons? The MVP of this historic Anniversary Game is already shattering McCoy's marks before many have even learned his name. In his superb career, McCoy rushed for 150 yards seven times. Madden went over 150 yards four times in the first five games of his career. He's averaging--hold on to your white covers--161 yards a game. Thanks to him, Navy led the nation in rushing in '99! No Navy team, including those of Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino, ever led the nation in any offensive category.
When an injury to junior Brian Broadwater gave Madden his first career start six weeks ago, eyebrows raised. Madden rushed for 168 yards and passed for 86 more in a near upset of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Who was this kid who sought out linebackers to bash and trampled safeties for fun?
Henceforth, anonymity will be impossible for the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Madden who attacks defenses as if he were a berserk fullback or an enraged tailback, not a mere option quarterback. This 100th anniversary game, with its pomp and flyovers, turned into his coming-out party.
Senior place kicker Tim Shubzda had the game of his life, tying the Army-Navy record with four field goals. Tray Calisch may have had the best punting day in the history of this rivalry, including a 73-yarder and a 56-yarder from the back of his end zone, boomed so high that Army fumbled it. But nobody doubted Madden was the MVP.
Since 1890, only one player ever carried the ball more often than the 41 times Madden lugged it at Veterans Stadium. But that's standard operating procedure for the former schoolboy wrestling champion. He's got some speed, moves and tackle-breaking power. But, mostly, he's magic at plowing, twisting, lunging and spinning until a three-yard crack in the defense turns into a five- to eight-yard gain. He's a tormenting chain-mover and a defense demoralizer.
"Brian could play a lot of places on this team," said Navy Coach Charlie Weatherbie. "He could play linebacker or fullback. He's a tough, strong, determined young man."
In recent days in Annapolis, the brigade has been taking note of how many times Madden has run out of bounds this season. It's an easy number to remember: zero. That streak was snapped by Army.
"I think I went out of bounds on the long run," said Madden, chagrined that, after a 34-yard romp, he hadn't looked for one more tackler to punish.
For much of this season, Navy found ways to play just well enough to lose. "Seven games came down to the last couple of minutes. We lost six," said Weatherbie. "Win two or three of those and you're in a bowl game again."
Despite Navy's 5-7 record, only Georgia Tech beat the Midshipmen convincingly. With a slightly easier schedule in 2000, plus luck and--above all--Madden, Navy can dream once more without the risk of being mocked. "I think we're real close [to another season like '96]," said Weatherbie. "They can build off this season and this game."
Madden may bring the perfect personality--cocky and tough--to a team that's come up short so often. In Madden's five games, the Mids were 3-2, including getting jobbed by the refs in South Bend and losing 47-41 to WAC co-champion Hawaii on the road.
Just two months ago, Madden was having second thoughts about having come to Navy. "I was disappointed not playing early [in the year]. I'd call my family on the phone and spill my guts. But I sucked it up. Now, everything is working out."
Navy sometimes loses athletes who use their escape clause to leave the Academy after their sophomore year. "I am planning on being back," said Madden. Assuming he stays, his roommate and best friend, sophomore fullback Raheem Lambert, will presumably return, too. They're already the heart of the rushing offense. What might they still accomplish?
Many an athlete simply can't take the grind at Navy. "Some nights before a game, we get three or four hours sleep," said Madden. "We play against teams where, you figure, they sleep all day and may not go to class either. We go six periods a day.
"For every other team, football practice is the roughest time of their day. For us, football is a relief. It's the fun part of the day."
In a sense, that's how Madden likes it. He's always sought the hard way. "Wrestling makes you tough. I don't know how many times I wanted to cry trying to [lose] that extra pound," said Madden, who was 31-0 at 189 pounds in his senior year in wrestling-crazy Oklahoma. "After that, you're not scared of anybody on a football field."
It's been many years since everything fell in place for a Navy team. It's unwise in sports to bet against a trend. High hopes don't equal bowl bids and strings of dominant wins over Army. Who knows, Madden may have auditioned himself right out of Annapolis in just five eye-popping games. Then again, maybe not.
When Staubach and Bellino came to midfield before this game for the coin toss, Madden was watching. "This place has a great football tradition. We should have beaten so many teams this season, and we can next year," Madden said. "There's no reason I can't come back here and be thought of as one of the top quarterbacks in the country."
Just a few weeks ago, Brian Madden would have been considered nuts if he had said such a thing in public. Now, you would be the one who would look crazy if you said that his dream, and Navy's, couldn't come true.