PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Army coach Bobby Ross is tired of ending his season against Navy. Like the Midshipmen, he wants to keep playing and go to a bowl.

A surging Navy program still has postseason play left after the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is presented and the hoopla has settled down from this annual patriotic rivalry.

After today, the Black Knights (3-8) will be finished with another losing record. And maybe beating the Midshipmen (8-3) in the 107th game of the series will ease Army’s sting of another terrible season.

“If we were to lose every game in the season and beat Navy, it would be a great season,” Army co-captain Cameron Craig said. “We know if we beat Navy, we can end it on a positive note.”

Ross has found winning a national championship or coaching in a Super Bowl easier than beating Navy. He’s 0-2 against the Mids since coming out of retirement to restore some pride to the fallen program, and the Black Knights haven’t even been competitive in those two games.

With a win at Lincoln Financial Field, the Midshipmen can equal their longest winning streak in the series, matching a pair of five-game series winning streaks, most recently from 1959 through 1963. Navy has outscored the Black Knights by a 176-54 margin the last four years and has the overall series lead (50-49-7) for the first time since 1991.

Perhaps the series title should be flopped to Navy-Army since the Mids are coming out on top.

“I’d like to see our rivalry get back to what it once was,” Ross said. “To me, that is our responsibility. We have to play better. I think it’s a great rivalry.”

It hasn’t been that long since Army dominated the rivalry. The Black Knights won six of seven from 1992-98 and led the overall record by four games. But since Paul Johnson was named Navy’s coach in 2002, the Midshipmen have controlled the series and returned to the national spotlight for more than one game a season.

Navy has won at least eight games each of the last four seasons, and will play in the Meineke Bowl against an opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference on Dec. 30 for its fourth straight bowl game.

“We’ve probably just been fortunate and lucky,” Johnson said. “We’ve gotten some breaks. We’ve just made plays. The kids have made some plays.”

Army, meanwhile, became the first Division I-A team to finish 0-13 in 2003 and hasn’t had a winning season since 1996.

“I think Navy is back and that’s what I wanted to do from day one,” Ross said. “I think it’s going to take a little longer for some reasons that you may not be aware of. But if you have an ounce of patriotism to you, you’ve got to feel very, very good about participating in this game.”

Ross has found it harder than expected to recruit a competitive roster. The war has certainly hamstrung his efforts, and a Military Academy-required summer training program for underclassman makes it tough for players to build strength and gain weight.

Army’s football facilities were subpar, with the program only opening a new athletic center complete with state-of-the-art weight room two years ago, and an indoor practice facility is set to open later this month.

So far, any progress hasn’t shown in the results. That’s been troubling for Ross, who felt a deep pull to coach Army when it sorely needed him. Two of Ross’ sons graduated from service academies and his father turned down an appointment to West Point to provide for his family during the Depression.

Beating a bowl-bound Navy team could signal the program is poised for a rebound next season.

“It’s a rivalry game, and you always want to beat your rivals,” Ross said. “It would mean a lot to a lot of people. It would mean a lot to our players, our troops, our school and our corps. I have given that a lot of thought; it is very important to me.”

Navy’s senior’s are in no rush to hand over the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. With a win, Navy would win the trophy outright for the fourth straight year and make the senior class the first in school history to go 8-0 against Army and Air Force.

Army could force a tie for the CIC trophy with a win, but Navy would retain possession. If there is a three-way tie, the defending trophy winner retains possession

“It’s a little extra motivation that I don’t think we would need,” said Navy co-captain Rob Caldwell. “It’s a good thing to be a part of. We have a chance to make some history. I know Army will give us their best shot, but we’re going to give them ours, too.”

AP-ES-12-01-06 1750EST


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