Cadets sink Midshipmen 102nd Army Navy game

Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2001

PHILADELPHIA -- Army officers fighting the war on terrorism have reason to cheer.

Before a crowd that featured President Bush, Army beat Navy 26-17 Saturday in the 102nd game between the rival academies.

''I know people all around the world were watching,'' Army linebacker Brian Zickefoose said. ''For the Army guys overseas, I think they are smiling right now, maybe have some motivation. They have bragging rights for a year.''

Navy finished 0-10 for its first winless season since finishing 0-8-1 in 1948, and first no-win, no-tie season since going 0-1 in 1883.

Freshman Ardell Daniels ran for 131 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown, and Omari Thompson had a 96-yard kickoff return for a TD to lead Army to its first victory over Navy since 1998.

The Black Knights (3-8) have a 49-46-7 edge in the series. Last year, Navy avoided a winless season with a 30-28 victory over Army in Baltimore but had no such luck this time.

Amid a backdrop of red, white and blue, Veterans Stadium was bolstered with added security. Fighter jets and helicopter gunships roared above the stadium before kickoff.

A Navy seal, carrying a giant American flag, descended onto the field before the game, electrifying a sellout crowd of 69,708.

''Obviously, the 11th of September changed all our lives,'' Army coach Todd Berry said of the terrorist attacks. ''This game had more significance because of that.''

Bush spoke to both teams in their locker rooms, telling them his thoughts also were with members of the armed services fighting in Afghanistan.

The president then participated in the coin toss.

Navy won the flip, but went three-and-out. Army immediately took control.

Daniels, who entered with just 25 carries this season, sprinted 60 yards on his second carry for his first TD, giving the Black Knights a 7-0 lead.

''It was the greatest feeling in my life,'' said Daniels, who was the MVP.

Chad Jenkins connected with Brian Bruenton for a 42-yard TD pass on Army's next possession to make it 13-0. Derek Jacobs missed the extra point.

Navy's only TD came on a 4-yard pass from Craig Candeto to Steve Mercer with 23 seconds left. The duo connected again on the 2-point conversion to make it 26-17.

''There is no doubt it was special, but it may have been our worst effort of the season,'' Navy quarterback Brian Madden said.

Jenkins, playing for the first time since injuring his knee against Buffalo on Nov. 10, passed for 119 yards, but had four interceptions.

Madden had 75 rushing yards, falling 95 yards short of becoming just the 24th quarterback in NCAA history to reach 1,000 yards in a season.

The Middies cut it to 13-3 on a 44-yard field goal by David Hills in the second quarter, but Army got a 39-yarder from Jacobs as time ran out in the first half to take a 16-3 lead.

A blocked punt by Anthony Miller with five seconds left in the second quarter set up the field goal.

Thompson then put the game out of reach by racing 96 yards on the opening kickoff of the second half. Thompson faked a reverse, broke a tackle by Lenter Thomas on the way to his first career kick return for a TD.

''With everything that has been going on, people are reaching out to touch something with the Army and Navy,'' Army center Dustin Plumadore said. ''I know people are really concerned about what's going on overseas. They're not getting an opportunity to reach out and touch those soldiers. Us playing this game was a way to reach out, to look in the crowd and see future and current soldiers.''

A career-best 47-yarder by Hills cut it to 23-6 in the third. Hills added a 20-yarder late in the third that made it 23-9. An illegal motion penalty nullified a 5-yard TD run by Madden, forcing Navy to settle for a field goal.

The 2-17 combined record of the teams entering the game was the second worst in series history. They were 1-19 heading into last year's game.

''I expected us to move the ball with efficiency and score some touchdowns,'' Navy coach Rick Lantz said.

It was the 76th time Army and Navy played in Philadelphia, and the final time at 30-year-old Veterans Stadium. In 1998 a railing collapsed, injuring nine students and leaving one with a broken bone in his neck.

Next year's game will be played at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., because of a shortage of accommodations caused by a medical conference in Philadelphia.

The teams return to Philadelphia in 2003 to play in a new stadium that is scheduled to open that fall, but the site for 2004 and beyond is uncertain.

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