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Service Academy Spotlight on the Navy Midshipmen


Navy Midshipmen Football
© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In the U.S. Constitution, rule No. 1 is that you must never disrespect the troops, especially those who also play college football. Don't look it up, I promise it's there. In all seriousness, the service academies are greatly important to our sport and this country.



Over the next several weeks, we will dive deeply into some of the history and traditions of each of the major service academy teams: Air Force, Army and Navy. We will also preview the upcoming season for each of these squads. During the season, be sure to check back in to see how the service academies are doing, along with where they stand in the competition for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.


Navy Midshipmen football
© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Navy Midshipmen, American Athletic Conference

Annapolis, Md. is home to the United States Naval Academy, where future Navy and Marine Corps officers begin their military careers. During their first year in Annapolis, academy students are referred to as Plebes.


From the first day they arrive on campus, known as Induction Day, or "I-Day", Plebes begin their indoctrination into military life. They spend the next few months training and learning to separate themselves from their former lives as civilians. The goal of Plebe Summer is to have these students prepared to join the Brigade of Midshipmen by the time the Fall semester begins. All prospective football players at the Academy must also make it through Plebe Summer if they want an opportunity to earn a spot on the team.



On the field, the Midshipmen have been members of the American Athletic Conference since 2015. They are led by second-year coach Brian Newberry. Before being named coach in December of 2022, Newberry served as Navy's defensive coordinator for four years.


Brian Newberry
© Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

Newberry is looking for improvement after last season, which saw the Midshipmen post a 5-7 record, including losses to both Air Force and Army. Prior to the hire of Newberry, the Midshipmen had been led by Ken Niumatalolo for 15 years. Niumatalolo enjoyed much success during his first 12 seasons in Annapolis. From 2008 to 2019, Navy only had two losing seasons. More importantly, the Midshipmen posted a 16-8 combined record against Army and Air Force, winning six outright Commander-in-Chief Trophies.


Ken Niumatalolo
© Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY NETWORK

Navy's high-water mark under Niumatalolo came in 2019 when they finished 11-2, including a CIC Trophy and Liberty Bowl victory over Kansas State. However, the Midshipmen never seemed to find their footing after that, going 11-23 overall and 1-7 against their service academy brethren over the last three years of Niumatalolo's tenure.


History

Football at the Naval Academy began in 1879, when Academy students played against the Baltimore Athletic Club in a match abiding by rugby rules. The next year, Navy challenged Army in football for the first time, winning 24-0 in West Point, N.Y.



In 1926, Navy posted a 9-0-1 record, including a 10-0 victory over Michigan and a 21-21 tie with Army. The Midshipmen were awarded a share of the national championship that season, along with Stanford and Alabama.



During the World War II era from 1941 to 1945, Navy went 33-10-2 and finished in the AP top 4 in the country three times.


In the 1944 season, Navy played Army in what was known as the original Game of the Century, falling to the Black Knights 23-7 in Baltimore, Md.


In 1963, the Army-Navy game was postponed from November to December due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and played on the 22nd anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Navy quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach led the Midshipmen to a 21-15 victory over the Black Knights. During the game, instant replay was used for the first-ever time.



Traditions

Navy's mascot is a billy goat named "Bill the Goat." Before the Army-Navy game in 1953, Bill was kidnapped and taken back to West Point by a group of cadets from Army. The goat-napping was a major story, even making newspapers in New York under the headline "Goat Rebellion at West Point." There have been several other successful kidnappings of Bill by West Point students, including Operation Good Shepherd in 2012.

Bill the Goat
© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Game days at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium include flyovers and a march-on by the entire Brigade of Midshipmen. The team runs onto the field led by players carrying American flags, as well as Navy and Marine Corps flags. Games involving service academies bring out the patriot in all.


The longest-standing and most important tradition is the Army-Navy game. It is the single biggest game for every Midshipman, without exception. Beating Army is so important, it is spoken of by every player and coach throughout every season. "Go Navy" is always followed by "Beat Army".



Uniforms

Blue and gold are the Naval Academy's colors, and the team is outfitted by Under Armour. Over the years, Navy has had some incredible uniform combinations. These different kits highlight the Naval Academy's many capabilities and honor units from its history. The dress blue uniforms worn against Air Force in 2021 honored the United States Marine Corps and are some of the sharpest-looking threads ever worn by the Midshipmen.



Notable Alumni

Navy has two Heisman Trophy winners: running back Joe Bellino in 1960, and quarterback Roger Staubach in 1963. Bellino and Staubach were also Maxwell Award winners in those seasons. Staubach is unquestionably the most famous Navy football player of all time. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981 and is the only Heisman-winning quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Roger Staubach
© Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY Sports

Another player who left a legacy at Navy is Keenan Reynolds, who played quarterback for the Midshipmen from 2012 to 2015. Reynolds was the starting signal-caller at Navy for over three seasons and set numerous school and NCAA records. The Midshipmen compiled a 36-16 record with three bowl victories and three CIC Trophies during those years. Reynolds is the only QB in school history to compile a 4-0 record against Army.



In his senior season in 2015, Reynolds was voted the AAC Offensive Player of the Year, first-team All-AAC, third-team All-American and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Reynolds had his jersey number 19 retired by the Midshipmen in 2016, joining Staubach, Bellino, and running back Napoleon McCallum as the only players to receive this honor. Reynolds was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.



2023 Season Review

Brian Newberry's first season with the Midshipmen was a disappointing one, to say the least. After being whipped by Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland to begin the season, the Midshipmen lost their first two conference games to start 1-3 overall. After notching a few wins against AAC opponents in early October, Navy scored only 6 points in a home loss to Air Force. Navy lost the last two games of the season by a combined score of 76-25, including a defeat to Army.


Navy Football
© Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

2024 Season Outlook and Schedule

Newberry made a change at offensive coordinator this offseason, hiring former Mercer head coach Drew Cronic to the position. Cronic's offense is referred to as the "Sling-T", as it uses Wing-T concepts while looking for leverage on the outside. Navy returns fullback Alex Tecza, who ran for over 750 yards and five touchdowns last season. Along with fellow full back Daba Fofana and slot back Eli Heidenreich, the Midshipmen have the weapons for a strong rushing attack.


Navy football
© Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, Navy returns linebackers Luke Pirris and Colin Ramos, two leaders and pivotal components of a defense that allowed just over 22 points per game in 2023. These two will have to anchor Navy's front seven if the Midshipmen hope to compete in the AAC and more importantly, for the CIC Trophy.


Navy football
© Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

In 2024, the Midshipmen will have an opportunity to improve on offense and get back to a bowl game. Navy starts with three straight home games to begin the season, the first of which is against the Bucknell Bison on Aug. 31.



Navy's first game in the CIC series is a road matchup against Air Force on Oct. 5. Navy will continue its traditional rivalry with Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. several weeks later. The Midshipmen finish their season against Army in Landover, Md. on Dec. 14. Navy will be looking to win their first outright CIC Trophy since 2019.


Stay tuned to College Football Dawgs for further reporting on the gridiron heroics of the service academies.





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