Rivalry Classic: We Simulated A Series Between the Best Possible Army and Navy Rosters (1996-Present)

Last week, we kicked off our rivalry classic series with the Ohio State vs. Michigan series – this week we’re celebrating Memorial Day by checking out the Army-Navy match-up. “The only game where every player on the field would be willing to die for every person in the stands”. The Army-Navy game is one of the greatest sporting events of the year, and Navy snapped a three-game losing streak last season after dominating much of this century. Will Navy’s dominance over much of the last 20 years hold up, or can Army’s best players come together to pull the upset? 

Roster Comparison

Quarterback
Navy
2019 Malcolm Perry
2016 Will Worth
2015 Keenan Reynolds
1997 Chris McCoy
Army
2018 Kelvin Hopkins Jr.
1996 Ronnie McAda
2017 Ahmad Bradshaw
Analysis
Advantage: Navy. It’s not close – I’d probably take any of Navy’s four options here over Army’s best offering. Part of that is due to their system – Army’s approach utilizes their fullbacks and running backs more, while, especially recently, the quarterback has been the focal point of the Naval Academy offense, which is why you see three QBs from the past five seasons on this list. 

Wide Receivers
Navy
2017 Zach Abey
2019 C.J. Williams
2019 Keoni-Kordell Makekau
2010 Greg Jones
2015 Jamir Tillman
2001 Jeff Gaddy
Army
1999 Omari Thompson
1998 Roderick Richardson
2009 Jameson Carter
2007 Jeremy Trimble
2003 Aaron Alexander
2019 Camden Harrison
Analysis
Advantage: Navy. Abey’s inclusion is a bit of a weird one, as he was more of a quarterback with Navy, but he’s counted as a wide receiver in the simulator, and we’re not going to deny Navy a star talent. Even without Abey, their wide receivers are generally more involved than Army’s and they’re simply a deeper group. Not as much of a gaping hole between the two teams as under center, but still an edge to the Midshipmen. 

Running Back
Navy
2008 Shun White
2004 Kyle Eckel
2012 Gee Gee Greene
1996 Omar Nelson
2019 Jamale Carothers
Army
2004 Carlton Jones
2000 Michael Wallace
2013 Terry Baggett
2011 Raymond Maples
1996 Joseph Hewitt
2012 Larry Dixon
Analysis
Advantage: Army. Even without their extra running back (Navy had an extra QB), Army simply has brought in and developed more backfield talent than Navy. It’s a little bit due to the difference in systems once more, as Army delegates more of the offensive responsibility to their backs then Navy does. I think Army’s top-4 running backs here are the best four on the gridiron in this series, so this position is a big advantage for the Black Knights. 

Tight End
Navy
1997 Mark Mill
Army
1999 Alton McCallum
2004 Jared Ulekowski
2001 Clinton Dodson
Analysis
Full Disclosure, we had to bend the rules a little bit. Navy simply doesn’t use tight ends in their offense, and Mill is the only player in the last 25 years considered to primarily play the position for the Midshipmen. We had to fill out the position in order to complete the roster, we used two tight ends from different teams that had the minimum value and designated them to no playing time. So advantage to Army here, as they have McCallum, who can factor into the run game, and Ulekowski and Dodson, who both were solid contributors in the passing game during their time on campus. 

OTHER

Defense
2019 Navy Defense
1996 Army Defense
Advantage: Navy

Special Teams (Kick and Punt Returns)
2007 Navy Special Teams
2006 Army Special Teams
Advantage: Army

Kicker
Navy: 2001 David Hills
Army: 1996 Joseph Parker
Advantage: Navy
Punter
Navy: 2012 Pablo Beltran
Army: 2019 Zach Harding
Advantage: Army

This rivalry series, as it is many times, should be a clash of heavy run games with different play styles. Navy will likely lean on Malcolm Perry to do damage, as he did in the most recent edition of the Army-Navy game, when he accumulated over 300 rushing yards. Army will use a bevy of backs, largely from the late 90s and early 2000s to counter Perry. Navy is going with their defense from last season, while Army, like other pieces of their roster, heads back to 1996 and their 10-2 team to grab their defense, in hopes of defeating the Midshipmen in the ultimate rivalry clash. All three games, like the Army-Navy game, will be played on a neutral field, and both teams will employ a favor-run style, to try to emulate the ground-and-pound system of the military academies. Let’s get it. Credit to the WhatIf Sports Simulator for helping us run this series. 

Game 1
Navy 23 Army 6

Malcolm Perry didn’t run for 304 yards, but he was quietly efficient, rushing for 71 and passing for 90 on a 5-7 effort, while Zach Abey ran for 60 yards. Perry ran one touchdown from ten yards out with nine seconds to go in the first half to take command with a 13-3 lead at the break. C.J. Williams iced the game with a 21-yard touchdown run in the final five minutes. David Hills drilled three field goals in three attempts to account for the rest of the offense. For Army, Kelvin Hopkins ran for 68 yards, but he had to go to the air to engineer a comeback, and the Black Knights aren’t built for that. Hopkins was 8-15 for 106 yards and a pick, and as a whole, the Army rushing attack averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. Joseph Parker knocked a pair of field goals, but that was the only offense mustered by the Black Knights. Dominant effort by the Midshipmen to kick off the rivalry classic. 

Game 2
Army 20 Navy 13
We’ve got ourselves a series! Army engineered a stunning late-game comeback to force Game 3. For three quarters, it looked like Navy would simply finish off a series sweep with dominating defense, as they led 13-3 heading into the fourth quarter, on the strength of a pair of field goals from Hills and a 24-yard run by Perry, who totaled 249 all-purpose yards, 129 of which came with his legs. However, the fourth quarter belonged to Army. Hopkins flipped a short pass to Carlton Jones, who raced 86 yards for a 1st & Goal, and, despite needing all four plays, the Black Knights punched it in behind a 2-yard run from tight end Alton McCallum. Army would get the ball back with 4:50 to play. Feeling the need to pass the ball a little bit, Army brought in 1996 quarterback Ronnie McCada, who did his job by going 2-2 for 21 yards. With 1:40 to go, Jones ran it the final 33 yards for a 17-13 lead. Navy couldn’t gain a first down, and Army took a few knees, kicking a field goal in the final five seconds to solidify the result. 

Game 3
Army 16 Navy 13
4th quarter magic baby – it’s what the Black Knights were made of in this series. Once again, Army failed to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter, but their defense kept it close, and a final surge brought them to a Game 3 victory. Hopkins was solid all day, going 10-14 for 119 yards, while Perry finally looked rattled under center, going just 2-6 with a pick. The Navy rushing offense was solid, with Perry going for 72 yards, Abey churning out 41, and Kyle Eckel picking his way for 38, but it wasn’t enough for the Midshipmen. Army got 167 yards on the ground from Jones, and McCallum and Michael Wallace combined for 110 yards. Navy had a 13-6 lead at halftime, courtesy of Eckel’s 5-yard touchdown run, and a pair of field goals from Hills, including a 56-yarder as the first half clock expired.
McCallum’s 41-yard run on a reverse set the Black Knights up for a 33-yard field goal with a touch under eight minutes to go. Navy ticked two-and-a-half minutes off the clock, but Army needed 43 seconds to score, as Wallace broke off a 14-yard run, and Jones burst 62 yards for a 16-13 Army lead. Navy faced a 4th and 5, and they elected to trust their defense and punt. Army grinded out two first downs, including a third down conversion, to ice the game. 

Navy may have dominated the individual results over the past 20 years or so (sans Army’s recent 3-year winning streak), but Army gets the bragging rights in a thrilling three-game rivalry classic. Cue the Alma Mater  – Army sings second. 

The singing of the alma maters is a timeless tradition to end the Army-Navy game

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