Army cadets attend the Army vs. Navy foo

Updated: Navy makes it 10 in a row over Army


There were no Heisman candidates or major award winners. With a combined seven wins, neither team was within a sniff of a bowl.  Yet, none of that mattered on a crisp and clear Saturday afternoon less than 10 miles from the nation’s capital at Fed Ex Field. It was, after all, the 112th playing of Army and Navy.

An event that oozes with pride and patriotism had a heightened level of both thanks to a visit from President Barack Obama, who took in the opening half on the Navy side before crossing the field at halftime to be with the West Point brass.  Well after the late-autumn sun had disappeared and the first game played between the Academies within the Capital Beltway was entered as another chapter in the storied series history, the Midshipmen and their faithful celebrated yet another victory. The 27-21 win was Navy’s 10th consecutive over Army.

This victory, in front of 80,789, was unlike any of the previous nine in which Navy was victorious by a combined 322-91 and winning five by at least 28 points. This game would not be a rout as the teams went back and forth with Navy letting a pair of leads slip away, including a 14-0 second-quarter advantage.  The Middies took the lead for good, though, on Jon Teague’s 23-yard field goal that made the score 24-21 with 12:03 remaining the fourth quarter. The kick capped an 18-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 9:12.

After Army’s Scott Williams fumbled away the ensuing kickoff when he was leveled by Navy’s Noah Copeland, the Midshipmen were knocking on the door again with Black Knights’ 27 the starting point. Though Navy could not muster a single yard on three plays, Teague drilled a 44-yard field goal with 10:26 to play for the final margin.

For the senior kicker, it was a wonderful way to conclude what had been a difficult season. Teague had an extra point blocked against Air Force in a 35-34 overtime defeat on Oct. 1 and things continued to go down hill after that. He made only 8-of-13 field goals coming in and had a couple of disheartening misses. Teague had a potential game-winner blocked late in the fourth quarter against Rutgers on Oct. 15 and he hit the right upright on the game’s final play versus East Carolina the following week. He kept battling and better times were ahead.

“Beating Army is something that I have always dreamed,” said Teague. “I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the best feeling in the world. I was definitely hugging the right upright today, but they went through.”

They did indeed and they put to an end to criticism directed at Teague that lit up many a message board during that rough month of October. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo choked up at the postgame press conference when he started to talk about his kicker.

“It’s just a game and some of the things that were said about the kid were like he committed a crime,“ said Niumatalolo of how people responded to Teague’s misses. “It could not have ended up better for someone like Jon, who had to persevere through all of the criticism.”

Army, which fumbled the ball away three times, would not have an answer to Teague’s field goals. The Black Knights would drive to the Navy 24 with six minutes remaining, but that’s when junior linebacker Matt Warrick took over. On 2nd-and-6, he picked a great time to record his first-career sack, dropping Trent Steelman for a five-yard loss. Two plays later with the Black Knights having to go for it on 4th-and-7, Warrick tackled Steelman for a one-yard loss and giving the ball to the Middies with less than four minutes remaining.

On that ensuing possession, facing a fourth down and less than a yard at their own 48, Navy’s Gee Gee Greene faked going into motion. That drew Army offside and, from there, the Middies were able to largely melt the clock as they left Army with one desperate play from its own 10.

“It was a battle and both teams fought hard to the end,” said Niumatalolo, now 4-0 versus Army. “It’s unfortunate one team had to lose. Both teams had a hard time stopping each other.”

With the win, Navy improves its all-time series lead to 56-49-7.

“We didn’t do the things that correlate with success on the scoreboard,” said Army coach Rich Ellerson, who endured his third loss in the series. “We didn’t win the turnover battle. We got crushed in the kicking game and those are always going to be strategic determinations of who wins and loses.”

For Navy supporters, the scoreboard indicated they will have bragging rights for another year – a year that will once again be painful at West Point.

Georgia reportedly hires Kirby Smart as head coach

Kirby Smart

Sometimes the rumors really are true.

Seemingly since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the worst-kept secret in college football was that Kirby Smart wouldn’t jump from Nick Saban‘s perch until the Georgia job opened.

And now, one day after Mark Richt said goodbye in Athens, multiple reports say that’s exactly what will happen – Smart will be the next Bulldogs coach.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, Smart was the only target UGA athletics director Greg McGarity truly targeted and, barring a major turn of events between now and the SEC championship, he’ll have landed him.

Hailing from Bainbridge, Ga., Smart played safety for Georgia from 1995-98, then returned in 2005 as running backs coach. In between he made stops at Valdosta State, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Dolphins and, finally, Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide to three national titles and never produced a defense ranked lower than 18th nationally in yards per play defense.

This year’s Crimson Tide defense ranks second nationally heading into an SEC title game date with Florida. If, as expected, Alabama wins and, as expected, Smart is introduced as Georgia’s next coach, he would have to decide whether or not to pull a move much like Herman last year and work double-duty through Alabama’s run in the College Football Playoff. Or he could rip a page from his predecessor’s book and dump Alabama to drive straight into the Georgia job.

What sort of program will Smart run? Other than the Process-based enterprise seemingly microchip implanted into the brain of every Saban aide, it’s hard to say. Smart only spoke to the media three times annually.

But here’s one guarantee: he’ll need to nail his offensive coordinator hire. Saban’s former offensive coordinators — Jimbo Fisher and Jim McElwain — have thrived, while his most prominent defensive coordinator-turned-head coach protege — Will Muschamp — failed mightily at Florida because he could never conquer the other side of the ball.

Smart will be expected to win, win big, and win quickly. You don’t fire a coach with 145 wins in 15 years and 19 victories in the last two for any other reason.

Why Steve Spurrier retired, as told by Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier

When Steve Spurrier abruptly retired in October, most stopped to reminisce about a true college football original’s career come to a sudden, but not unexpected end. But others pointed out that Spurrier essentially quit on his team in the middle of a tough season. It was an easy take and, hey, it’s not like the Old Ball Coach himself wouldn’t have said something if Mark Richt had done something similar.

In a letter provided to The State, Spurrier reasoned his retirement truly was better for the team, that the team played better without him around and that his presence would’ve generated speculation that would have suffocated the rest of the season.

Considering the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel, one has every reason to doubt that claim. But it’s the one Spurrier is going with.

The letter in full:

In the last few years when asked how much longer I plan to coach, I have said often that if our team is going in the wrong direction I need to resign and allow someone else to take over as head coach here. After six games, we were 2-4 with two blow-outs by Georgia and LSU. We were behind at halftime against UCF (a team that went 0-12 this year). We were definitely going in the wrong direction. I felt that I was doing a lousy job as head coach and a change would help our team become more competitive.

I told our team after I resigned that they needed new leadership, new enthusiasm and a new plan. By stepping aside, this allowed Shawn Elliott the opportunity to change our direction, change our attitude, and hopefully, he could be named head coach after the season. If this happens, some of our assistant coaches would be retained, and this was a major reason for me to get out of the way. Also, by resigning, I forfeited the buyout clause in my contract that saved our university three million dollars.

I certainly believe, as the media has said, that our team played better after I resigned. Shawn Elliott did an excellent job getting this team prepared to play with enthusiasm and effort the rest of our season. Unfortunately, the close games turned into close losses.

When I mentioned I may coach again, I meant possibly as a volunteer coach at a high school. After thirty years as a head coach, I positively know that my head coaching career is finished.

I understand the critics have asked why I didn’t announce I was retiring at the end of the season, as some other coaches have done. I felt that if I had done this, I would have been a distraction throughout the remainder of the season about my last game everywhere I went. I did not want a “Spurrier Farewell Tour.” The players deserve to be the story of each game. Also, it would have prevented Shawn Elliott, a coach that has loved the South Carolina Gamecocks his whole life, from getting the shot to be the interim head coach, with the possibility of becoming the Head Coach here.

When a coach gets fired, the change is often good and helpful to the team. Miami was 4-3 when Al Golden was fired, and the interim head coach went 4-1. Randy Edsall was 2-4 at Maryland when fired and his replacement got the team playing better. Clay Helton, the interim coach at the other USC, was recently named head coach as they went 5-2 under his watch.

Our university was not going to fire me, so I thought it was best for our team that I basically fire myself by resigning. The players have enjoyed playing for Coach Elliott and again the media has said the team has performed better after I resigned.

Thanks to all Gamecocks for allowing me to be your coach for over ten years. My wife Jerri and I will always be thankful and appreciative to the University of South Carolina for this opportunity.


Steve Spurrier

Top four remains same in penultimate College Football Playoff rankings

Bob Stoops

The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and the top four remained the same from last week. Michigan State sits at fifth, meaning Saturday’s Big Ten Championship is officially a national quarterfinal.

Stanford, heading into this week’s Pac-12 Championship, checked in at No. 7, while party-crasher-to-be North Carolina jumped from No. 14 to No. 10.

Ohio State checks in at No. 6, but Stanford seems primed to pass the Buckeyes with a win over No. 20 USC. Getting into the top four, however, would require a loss by No. 1 Clemson or No. 2 Alabama. No. 3 Oklahoma is seemingly in the playoff with a completed 11-1 regular season.

TCU moved one spot ahead of Baylor after a rain-soaked double overtime win over the Bears on Friday night.

Houston, USC and LSU moved back into the rankings, while Tennessee joined the party for the first time this year.

Tuesday night’s release was the final dress rehearsal of the 2015 season; the next time we hear from the CFP selection committee will be to announce the four semifinal selections.

But while these are the second-to-last set of rankings, we can ask 2014 TCU about how much they ultimately mean.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
7. Stanford
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Baylor
13. Ole Miss
14. Northwestern
15. Michigan
16. Oregon
17. Oklahoma State
18. Florida
19. Houston
20. USC
21. LSU
22. Temple
23. Navy
24. Utah
25. Tennessee

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney

When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.