College Football

Army Shuts Out Navy in 121st Army-Navy Game


History was made Saturday during the 121st matchup between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen at Michie Stadium. Despite such longevity, being the eighth longest rivalry in college football, it was only the fourth time the two teams met on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the only one that Army won on their home campus.

Army running back Tyrell Robinson tries to gain extra yards while Navy’s Michael McMorris tries to stop him during Saturday’s Army-Navy Game at West Point. Photo by James Garman/Sportspage Magazine.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic prohibiting the game from being played in Pennsylvania, it was moved from Lincoln Financial Field to Michie Stadium. It was the first time since 1943 that the game was played at West Point. The only spectators in the stands were midshipmen and cadets. It was also be the first time since 1969 that Navy would be held scoreless.

“With the Brigade here, it was awesome to see them here. It is Army-Navy. The crowd was into it even though it was just the midshipmen and cadets. It was an electric atmosphere and having the Brigade here was awesome,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo.

Before the game began, both teams discovered a mutual enemy they had to contend with, one that would not play favorites with either team – the fog. A thick blanket of fog enveloped the stadium during the first half ensuring that the two academy teams would have to improvise, adapt and overcome if they were going to win the ballgame.

“I told Jamie Erdahl from CBS that it was probably the best game that nobody got to see,” said Army head coach Jeff Monken. “Our coaches at halftime came down from the box and didn’t go back up because they couldn’t see anything. The fog rolled in and it almost seemed appropriate for the battle that was taking place out there.

The Navy won the coin toss but deferred to the second half, giving the Black Knights the ball to begin the contest.

Navy’s Ben Fee smashed a 64-yard kickoff to Army running back Tyrell Robinson for a fair catch at the one yard line. Over the next four minutes, Army ran the ball six times for a total of 17 yards before punting.

The entire first quarter was a run and punt duel as neither side could gain traction in the fog, which was thickening by the minute.

“It was a slugfest. Just back and forth – three plays and punt, three plays and punt, a first down in between and then a punt again. We just kept battling back and forth,” said Monken.

Army had one reception, a 28-yard reception to Tyrell Robinson which put the ball on the Navy 18 yard line when the quarter ended. Otherwise, each team ran 10 running plays and gained two first downs during the quarter.

The Midshipmen’s defense hung tough during the beginning of the second quarter, forcing the Black Knights to settle for a 37-yard Quinn Maretzki field goal through lights and fog to take a 3-0 lead with 12:41 remaining in the half.

“We were fortunate enough to just get the field goal early and feel like you have a little bit of breathing room,” said Monken.

It was a see-saw battle once again as both sides went three and out. Army quarterback Tyhier Tyler scampered for a 13-yard run to pick up the first down and get the ball into scoring position on the Navy 26 yard line. Once again, Navy defense held strong forcing a 4th-and-4 on the Navy 22 with 1:41 left in the half.

This brought Quinn Maretzki back onto the field for his second field goal attempt – a 38-yarder which he missed wide to the left after Brooks Hosea, the holder, fumbled the snap.

Navy quarterback Xavier Arline tried making things happen on his own, rushing twice and passing once, but it turned into another three-and-out, and Army took the 3-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. It was the fewest first half points in an Army-Navy game in 11 years, when Army held a 3-0 lead in 2009, a game also held on December 12.

The game heated up in the third quarter as Navy received the kickoff on the 35 yard line after Landon Salyers kicked the ball out of bounds on the seven-yard line. Arline rushed for 11 yards to push the ball up to the Navy 46 yard line.
The next play, Arline broke a run open for a 52-yard gain and almost scored a touchdown before Army’s Cedrick Cunningham took him down at the two-yard-line.

Navy quarterback Xavier Aline appears to have scored a touchdown but officials ruled that his right knee was down at the one-yard line during Saturday’s Army-Navy Game at West Point. Photo by James Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Navy fullback Nelson Smith took hand-offs on the next two consecutive plays and couldn’t make it into the end zone. Arline nearly broke through on a third-and-goal from the two-yard line. Initially thought to be a touchdown, the officials ruled that his right knee was down at the one-yard line before the ball crossed the plane of the goal line.
Trailing 3-0 early in the third quarter, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo decided to gamble. He sent his offensive unit out for one more attempt at a touchdown.

Nelson Smith was given the carry but stopped for no-gain by Army defenders Amadeo West and Marquel Broughton. Navy turned the ball over on downs.

“It was a defensive struggle. You have to convert there. You have to convert,” said Niumatalolo. “Where the ball was at, we are a rushing team. It was on the inches line. I felt like we had to go for it.”

“There was no doubt in our minds. We knew once we got them down at the two that we were going to get that stop. We just had to focus on each play and stop them four times and not jump offsides. We got it done,” said Army’s Cunningham.

Army went three-and-out on its next possession, but managed to avoid giving up the safety.
The Black Knights broke the game open in the fourth quarter.

After a six-play series that netted 14-yards over a 3:30 span, Army was forced to punt.

On the first play of the possession from the Navy 15-yard line, Navy quarterback Xavier Arline ran an option and pitched out to slotback C.J. Williams, who was immediately decked by Army’s Cedrick Cunningham, who forced the fumble, which teammate Jon Rhattigan recovered on the 13 yard line.

“On the fumble, I was the pitch player, so I was just slow playing it and then once the opportunity presented itself, I just hit the slot and tried to make the play,” said Cunningham.

Army quarterback Tyhier Tyler ran on the next five plays, the last one a four-yard touchdown run. Maretzki then kicked the extra point to put Army up 10-0 with 11:02 remaining in the game.

Navy’s woes continued.

Facing a second-and-ten from their own 14-yard line, Arline handed off to C.J. Williams, who then dished it off to wide receiver Mark Walker on the reverse. Walker was tripped up by Army’s Daryan McDonald for a safety. Army now led 12-0 with 5:21 remaining in the contest.

The Navy Midshipmen special teams unit attempts to block a field goal attempt against Army kicker Quinn Maretzki during Saturday’s Army-Navy Game at West Point. Photo by James Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Army started their next drive in great field position on the Navy’s 22-yard line. Tyler ran the next four downs and Army settled for a 40-yard field goal from Maretzki to take two-possession lead, 15-0, with 2:30 left in regulation.

Niumatalolo made a change at quarterback putting Arline on the bench and inserting Dalen Morris into the lineup.
Morris immediately connected on a nine-yard pass to Walker, but followed that up with an incomplete pass and a run by Nelson that failed to convert to a first down. Facing 4th-and-1, Morris threw to C.J. Williams but it was incomplete. Army then ran out the clock to win the game.

“Our last three games have looked the same. We have played great on defense, but we cannot move the ball. Obviously, you can’t beat anybody with zero points. We only had 117 yards of total offense. Our defense played lights out the last three games of the year. We have to get better on offense. We have to figure that out in the offseason,” said Niumatalolo.

Army quarterback Tyheir Tyler went 1-for-1 with the 28-yard first quarter pass to Robinson and ran 26 times for 96 yards on the day, leading both teams in passing, and leading Army in rushing yards.

“It was amazing. It gave me chills just to see how happy the seniors were. To see the emotion from the coaches and just everyone. What’s amazing about the significance of this game is deeper than football. Seeing all of the officers, colonels and generals congratulating you means a lot considering the profession I want to head into,” said Tyler.

For Navy, Arline attempted three passes but had zero completions, and Morris finished 1-for-3 on passing with a nine-yard strike to Walker late in the fourth quarter as his only completion. Arline led both teams in rushing with 109 yards on 17 carries. Smith added 23 yards on 11 carries.

Army Black Knights football players celebrate after sweeping Navy 15-0 during Saturday’s 121st Army-Navy Game at West Point. Photo by James Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Regarding Arline, his freshman quarterback, Niumatalolo said, “I thought he did some good things running the ball. Obviously, he had the nice run and he had some other nice runs. I am encouraged by the positive things he did. He wasn’t perfect, but neither was anybody else. This will only help him. This experience will only help him in the future as he comes back. We are excited about the future with him, but we have to help him.”

In keeping with Army-Navy Game tradition, if you sing second, you win the game. The players from both teams lined up in the Navy end zone and sang “Navy Blue and Gold” immediately after the game. Then the players and coaches ran to the other end of the field and sang “West Point Alma Mater.”

“It’s awesome. Coming in as a freshman you never really expect to be in this position, but it’s amazing to experience such a big game,” said Maretzki, who scored seven of Army’s fifteen points. “I’ve had some awesome support from the coaches and all the players. I’m just grateful to be able to come through in those moments.”

Navy won last year’s game, which was not lost on Army defensive end Amadeo West.

“I remember after Army-Navy last year Coach Monken hugged me and said ‘this is not going to happen again starting tomorrow.’ And so to put in the work for 365 days for this moment just shows it pays off and that hard work is a reflection upon the individual. To execute this win here at home was just great feeling. Number one,” said West.
Navy (3-7) will now go into the off-season trying to figure out how to improve. Army (8-2) will host Air Force (3-2) for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.

As for the Army-Navy series, Navy leads the series 61-53-7.

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