Note: This is Part 3 of “Enemy Lines,” a series in which I trade e-mails with Christian Swezey, one of my good friends and a fellow sportswriter who has covered Navy for years. Scroll down to see the first two e-mails in our exchange.
Not too much talk about Army yet. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the Black Knights are 2-2 and clearly playing better football. I, for one, think they’ve finally got the right fit at coach in Rich Ellerson.
According to the folks at the academy, there’s a group of about 600 cadets (including the band) heading to Annapolis for the game, which apparently is a little more than usual.
Players on Tuesday said they’ve heard a lot of talk up on the hill from cadets not on the football team about Navy week. One thing I definitely found interesting is that some of the older players on the team have sent e-mails out to teammates stressing the need for emotion this week. Some of the e-mails, apparently, list stats, including the most important one: Six. As in consecutive victories by Navy.
Interesting take about the confidence factor. And I liked your reference to OU-Nebraska in the 70s. Another rivalry that has had skewed streaks is Notre Dame-USC. The Trojans currently have won seven in a row. But the Irish won 11 straight from 1983 through 1993 and pulled out some classics in that stretch, including a one-point victory in ’86 and a 28-24 Tony Rice-led victory in 1989 (which happened to be played on the day of my freshman year Homecoming Dance. I refused to get ready for the dance until the game was over, and I believe a threat was lobbed during an ill-timed phone call from my girlfriend at the time that I wasn’t going if Todd Marinovich led USC to a victory. Needless to say, we broke up later that year).
Anyhow, where was I?
Right, confidence. Both Navy kids I talked to downplayed confidence as a factor, but I’ve got to believe, as you said, it plays a big part. That’s why I think if the Falcons want to win, two things will be absolutely critical: One, they’ll have to get off to a good start to build some confidence of their own. And, two, (and perhaps most importantly), they’ll have to avoid giving up big plays or making the huge mistakes (like, say, a blocked punt) that could start the “here we go again” thoughts.
One thing I wanted to ask: What are Navy’s special teams like?
Air Force had a big question mark at kicker with the departure of Ryan Harrison, but sophomore Erik Soderberg has filled in quite admirably so far. The return game has been better than in recent seasons, and punter Brandon Geyer is becoming a factor.
These games often can be decided by special teams, so do you think they’ll play a big factor this year?