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College Football Spotlight

Navy Has a Commanding Presence

October 05, 2003|Elliott Teaford

Navy last won the Commander-In-Chief's trophy 22 years ago, before many of its current players were born. What's more, the Midshipmen had lost to Air Force six consecutive times, including a 48-7 defeat last year at Colorado Springs, Colo.

Navy's 28-25 victory over previously unbeaten Air Force didn't figure, but Kyle Eckel ran for a career-best 176 yards and scored a touchdown and Navy (3-2) scored two touchdowns in a span of 48 seconds to build a 14-3 lead in the second quarter.

Navy linebacker Bobby McClarin, whose broken left hand was fitted with a boxing glove before the season, prevented Air Force from scoring a touchdown in the first quarter. On third-and-goal at the Midshipmen 8, McClarin fully extended himself in diving to his left and blocked Chance Harridge's sure touchdown pass with his "glove" hand. Air Force settled for a field goal.

A victory over Army on Dec. 6 would give Navy its first Commander-In-Chief's trophy since 1981. The trophy is awarded to the team with the best record in games against the other service academies.

"After last year's game, they said they wanted to send us a message," Navy Coach Paul Johnson said of Air Force. "Got it. Back at 'em."

Said Eckel: "That trophy means everything to our team. It would be huge" to win it.

-- Elliott Teaford

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