Air Force, Navy vie for Commander-in-Chief's prize
Air Force waited seven years to reclaim the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, and has no intention of relinquishing it anytime soon.
Navy lost the coveted trophy less than a year ago and is already itching to get it back.
The 2 1/2-foot tall, three-sided trophy that symbolizes service academy dominance will be the focus Saturday when Air Force and Navy meet before a sellout crowd in Annapolis.
Air Force snapped a seven-game losing streak to Navy last season with a 14-6 victory in Colorado Springs. When the Falcons subsequently beat Army to capture the trophy for the first time since 2002, athletic director Hans Mueh sent the team's equipment truck directly from West Point to the Naval Academy to pick up the valuable piece of hardware.
''It was a big accomplishment for us last year to get the trophy back,'' Falcons wide receiver Jonathan Warzeka said. ''I think the pressure is as high, or even higher, than it was last year because we want to maintain that trophy.''
Navy owned the trophy from 2003-2009 and is 16-1 against Air Force and Army since 2003. The memory of that one defeat, however, still lingers.
''It was definitely the toughest loss I've had since I started playing sports,'' Navy fullback and co-captain Alexander Teich said. ''You just feel like you let so down so many people, especially the seniors and all the players that built the tradition of beating Air Force and Army. And you're the class that dropped the ball. That really hurt.''
Eight of the last 10 games between Air Force (2-1) and Navy (2-1) have been decided by a touchdown or less. The Midshipmen expect more of the same Saturday.
''It's been so competitive the last few years. Every game has been close, a real dogfight,'' Teich said. ''I don't think this year will be any different.''
Said Warzeka: ''Whoever can last 60 minutes, or even into overtime, is going to win.''
This one could be an offensive shootout. Air Force is averaging nearly 40 points and 565 total yards per game. Navy, behind quarterback Kriss Proctor, averages 33.7 points and 427 total yards. Proctor, Teich and slotback Gee Gee Greene are the keys to a rushing attack that ranks fourth nationally with 358.3 yards per game.
Navy players remain disappointed about last year's loss, having the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy removed from its glass case in Bancroft Hall in November. The feeling was intensified when they learned Air Force was visiting the White House for the formal presentation from President Barack Obama in April.
''It was like one of the lowest of low feelings. You want to send those seniors out on a good note, take them back to the White House,'' senior safety Kwesi Mitchell said. ''We let down the seniors, let down the coaches, let down everybody who had worked so hard to keep the trophy here. That is why getting the trophy back is definitely in the forefront of everyone's mind.''