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Army-Navy preview

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Storylines

1 The streak » Since installing the triple-option offense in 2002, Navy has beaten Army 10 straight times, the longest run in the history of the series. Since Army installed its own triple-option under fourth-year coach Rich Ellerson, the games haven't been as lopsided: 17-3 (2009), 31-17 (2010) and 27-21 last year when Navy needed a pair of fourth-quarter field goals from Jon Teague. This will be the final chance for the Black Knights seniors, who started with Ellerson in his debut season.

2 The stakes » For the first time since 2005, both teams have beaten Air Force and can win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Army has not captured the CIC (and earned the accompanying trip to the White House) since 1996. Before losing the trophy in 2010 to Air Force, Navy had won it a record seven straight times, including the final two under Ken Niumatalolo, the first coach in history to win it in his first two seasons. Navy has a 2-3 record against Army when playing for the CIC.

3 The pageantry » There is so much more to Army-Navy than the game. If you're going, get there early and stay late. The step-off and march-on of cadets and midshipmen are awe-inspiring. The invocation and national anthem are more poignant than ever. The flyovers are majestic. In the postgame, watching each team observe the other's alma mater is moving. There's also plenty of fun -- clever videos prepared by the schools, chants and signs ("Navy was our safety school") -- all in the name of high-spirited brotherhood.

Key matchups

SB Gee Gee Greene

The senior is Navy's leading rusher and receiver, a big-play threat who averages 7.2 yards per carry and 20.0 yards per reception.

vs.

LB Nate Combs

The senior is the most disruptive defender on a tiny unit that will try to prevent Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds from getting outside, the key to limiting Greene.

LB Matt Warrick

The senior has loomed large the last two years against Army, averaging 11 tackles in helping contain the Black Knights' potent rushing attack.

vs.

RB Raymond Maples

Playing in his hometown, the junior will key the Army offense. He was effective against Navy last year (13 carries, 82 yards).

QB Keenan Reynolds

Navy doesn't pass much, but Reynolds (167.2 efficiency rating) is potent. The Mids have used the pass effectively in recent games against Army.

vs.

S Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires

The freshman is Army's second-leading tackler with 83. He will key the Black Knights' efforts to prevent the Mids from hitting the big play.

Playing for 'Rafi'

Navy will wear helmet stickers in support of freshman quarterback Ralph Montalvo, who was seriously injured as a passenger in a single-car accident Thanksgiving night in his hometown of Miami. Montalvo has showed signs of improvement recently but remains in a medically induced coma in Miami. Montalvo, who goes by the nickname "Rafi," recently had been promoted to the third team and was to be in uniform for Saturday's game. ESPN will air a feature on Montalvo on Friday and Saturday.

State of the teams

Army

The Black Knights (2-9) have had a curious season full of lows but with two incredible highs -- a 34-31 win over Boston College and a 41-21 victory over Air Force. With the nation's top-ranked rushing offense, Army can score, but stopping opponents has been problematic. Army ranks 118th out of 120 teams in rushing defense.

Navy

After losing three of its first four, the Midshipmen (7-4) turned their season around with a 28-21 victory in overtime at Air Force as freshman Keenan Reynolds came off the bench and sparked a fourth-quarter rally. With Reynolds as its starter, Navy has taken better care of the ball and won five of six games, qualifying for its ninth bowl game in 10 years.

Examiner predicts

Army has all the motivational fuel, and savvy quarterback Trent Steelman is making his 46th career start. But the best player on the field will be Keenan Reynolds, who will give the Black Knights a demoralizing preview of the next three years.

Navy 33, Army 21

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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