As the clock at Veterans Stadium ticked away the final seconds this afternoon, Navy's sophomore quarterback, Brian Madden, turned to the sections filled with cheering Midshipmen and happily held aloft the game ball he had taken on the final snap. Fittingly, the 100th Army-Navy game ended with the ball in the hands of the strong 6-foot-1, 210-pound sophomore from Lawton, Okla., because he dominated the historic event, carrying the ball 41 times for 177 yards and a touchdown to lead Navy to a one-sided 19-9 victory.
Madden converted only his fifth start into his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing effort, unprecedented in Navy's football history, which includes such runners as Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino and all-American Napoleon McCallum. Today was the fourth time Madden exceeded 150 yards rushing in a game, and he surpassed his previous best of 168 yards, which he gained against Notre Dame in his first start.
Most of all for the Midshipmen (5-7), they turned a sunny, June-in-December day even more glorious before a stadium-record crowd of 70,049 by beating Army (3-8) for only the third time in the 1990s. They did it the old-fashioned, Army way--relentlessly on the ground.
Senior place kicker Tim Shubzda added four field goals in four tries--from 35, 34, 37 and 38 yards--and a surging Navy defense led by linebackers John Chavous and Daryl Hill, end Gino Marchetti and safety Chris Lepore easily contained a limited Army offense.
"I think anybody would have given anything to have the opportunity we had today," Madden said after the cannon fire and cheering had subsided, the smoke had cleared and the alma maters had been sung. "There's nothing like having the ball in your hands when you've got the game won."
Navy's overwhelming performance, featuring no turnovers to Army's four, was reminiscent of its 39-7 rout of Army in 1997 and did much to lessen the anguish of five close defeats this season and six setbacks by a total of 14 points in the previous seven Army-Navy games.
"This was a great team victory," said Charlie Weatherbie, whose coaching record against Army improved to 2-3. "It's a great opportunity for the team to springboard into next year and for the seniors--well, they can sit their grandchildren on their knees and say, 'We beat Army in the 100th Army-Navy game.' "
Lacking a passing game, the Cadets stalled most of the time on offense. It took them until the second period to muster a first down, the last two minutes of the first half to get on the scoreboard with a field goal and the final five minutes of the game, when they trailed 19-3, to muster a touchdown.
"Navy played a great football game today and deserved to win," Bob Sutton, Army's coach, said. "Brian is a real aggressive runner and very strong, obviously."
Madden credited his offensive line, which repeatedly manhandled the Army defensive line, with enabling Navy to end the season as Division I-A's best rushing team with an average of 292.2 yards.
"It's a compliment to them to say we led the country in rushing," Madden said.
Madden was recruited out of high school by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. But the home-state schools wanted to convert him to defensive back, and he enrolled at Navy after Weatherbie promised him the chance to remain a quarterback. When Brian Broadwater suffered a broken collarbone against Akron on Oct. 23, Madden took command.
Today he carried the ball on nine of the 11 plays Navy needed to complete a 67-yard drive to their first touchdown late in the first period. The drive was aided by a 15-yard personal-foul penalty against Army and a 17-yard burst up the middle by sophomore fullback Raheem Lambert to the Army 8. On third down from the 2, Madden circled left end and displayed an ability to change directions sharply, cutting back inside a defender to score.
Navy converted field position into a 10-0 lead shortly after Army's Imani Dupree fumbled a punt at the Army 39-yard line in the second period and Navy's Marcus Jackson recovered.
On another keeper to his left, Madden demonstrated his physical strength by bowling over safety Derrick Goodwin on an 18-yard gallop to the Army 18 before the drive stalled and Navy settled for its first field goal.
"He's more like a running back than a quarterback," Goodwin said. "He kept coming back. We keyed on him in the second half but he made the plays."
Army cut the lead to 10-3 after a mistake by Navy. The Midshipmen were called for too many men on the field when they rushed on substitutions after Army made a belated switch to its punting unit on a fourth-down play.
The penalty allowed Army to sustain a 14-play drive that led to a 44-yard field goal by Matt Parker. But Shubzda's second field goal, seconds before the end of the first half, gave Navy a psychological boost and a 13-3 lead.
Shubzda kicked his third field goal in the third period and his fourth in the fourth period before Army tacked a 39-yard scoring drive onto a 30-yard kickoff return by Brandan Rooney. On fourth down from the Navy 2-yard line, Army quarterback Joe Gerena circled to the right and threw a 40-yard pass back to the left side of the end zone to tight end Shaun Castillo. The Cadets failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
Navy happily ran off most of the remaining time, then celebrated. The players along the sideline ran onto the field to join the regulars who swarmed Madden.
Earlier in the season, Shubzda had missed field goal attempts by hitting an upright three times and the crossbar once. But unlike those occasions, Shubzda's kicks today were straight and strong. And unlike Navy's frustrating fourth-quarter losses to Army during the '90s, nothing quirky befell the Midshipmen.
"This is a game I'll remember, a game I'll remember all my life," Shubzda said.
"You play that close so many times," said Marchetti, "it's going to turn out all right. I've got bragging rights for life."