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A little more at stake for Army, Navy

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

CIC Trophy is in play for Mids, Black Knights

PHILADELPHIA -- For the football teams at Army and Navy, the rivalry defines the stakes. But this year, in the 113th meeting of the teams there's a little extra to be gained.

For the first time since 2005, both teams have beaten Air Force and enter their annual regular-season finale with a chance to capture the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. During a luncheon previewing the Dec. 8 game Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field, the 2-foot-6, 170-pound trophy was appropriately displayed within a few feet of the podium.

For two years the silver prize has resided in Colorado Springs. When the Air Force gave it up this month, it wasn't in the spit-shined condition it was when it left the Naval Academy in November 2010.

Up next
Army vs. Navy
When » Dec. 8, 3 p.m.
Where »
Lincoln Financial Field,
Philadelphia
TV » CBS

"They beat the absolute hell out of it," Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk announced. "I don't know what they did to it. But you know what, let's make a deal right now, gang: We're not going to give it back to Colorado."

For seven years (2003-09), Navy controlled the trophy, displaying it prominently in a glass case in Bancroft Hall, the academy's hulking dormitory.

When asked where Army would display the trophy, Black Knights senior quarterback Trent Steelman was at a loss.

"I don't know. We haven't even talked about it," Steelman said. "I think we'll figure that out once we get the trophy."

The last time Army captured the trophy was 1996, when most of the Black Knights were in elementary or preschool. The only time since that Army entered the Navy game with a chance to capture the trophy was 2005. The Black Knights surrendered 490 yards rushing in a 42-23 defeat.

This has been an odd year for Army (2-9). It included humbling losses to Stony Brook of the FCS and MAC cellar-dweller Eastern Michigan but also a 34-31 victory over Boston College of the ACC.

Then on Nov. 3, Army halted its 13-game skid against service academy rivals, rolling to a 41-21 win over Air Force as Steelman completed four of six passes for 100 yards and rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

"Yeah, we haven't won a lot of games," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "We have that experience against Air Force, which gives us more confidence, which realistically we didn't expect to have, playing a [Navy] team that's on its way to a bowl game."

Navy's win over Air Force didn't come as easy. The Midshipmen needed a fourth-quarter rally led by freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds to escape Colorado Springs with a 28-21 victory in overtime.

With Reynolds playing brilliantly, Navy has won six of its last seven games, helping erase the memory of last year's 5-7 season, the Mids' first without a bowl game since 2002.

The turnaround will be forgotten, however, if Navy fails to extend its 10-game winning streak against Army and recapture the hardware.

"You're excited every time to suit it up and play against them," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "But to have the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy at stake, that adds that much more fuel to an already-burning fire of competition."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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