10. Navy's uniforms
Even though they were unveiled prior to the game, seeing Navy's Nike Combat uniforms coming out of the tunnel in pre-game warm-ups was a ‘wow' moment for me. For me, when it comes to uniforms, teams get points for just being different, whether it is going old-school or Oregon-crazy. So while Army's uniforms were pretty much the same as their traditional ones, Navy's white helmets with their golden anchors stood out. It made almost want to purchase the $30 ball caps that resembled them at a concession stand. Ok, I'd never buy a $30 hat…that was absurd.
9. POTUS in the house
Having the President of the United States at a sporting event immediately provides another dimension to it. There were several moments in particular that stood out to me. The first was when President Obama, after attending to coin flip duties, actually stood within 5 yards of the sideline as the game started. He could be seen observing the opening kick-off as if he was sitting courtside at a Bulls game. It was also pretty cool to see that instead of sitting with the Army brass in the third quarter, it appeared that the President got cozy with a bunch of cadets near midfield for a good while.
8. Doesn't anyone feed them?
If you were at the game and hungry just after march-on, chances are there was no chance of you getting a bite to eat at the concession stands behind the Brigade or the Corps of Cadets. The scene from the veranda above the Johnny Rockets counters was a site to see – so much so I saw a lot of fans taking pictures. There were lines about 50 midshipmen and cadets deep, making for a pretty crowded thoroughfare and a unique photo-op.
7. You can't Teich that
Navy fullback Alexander Teich had several memorable moments in this game but two in particular stood out. His diving run into the end zone to put the Midshipmen up 14-0 and his second-half 47-yard kick-off return, his first of the season, put Navy in Army's territory to start the third quarter. Teich, who had his ups and downs this season, rose to the occasion on Saturday and was one of the many stars who shined for Navy.
6. The Brigade gets it
Maybe it is the pain of losing nine years in a row or maybe it's something else, but it always seems like the Brigade of Midshipmen just know how to be more creative off-the-field than their Corps of Cadets counterparts. In the stands, the folks from Annapolis were doing exactly what they should have been doing at the most entertaining football game in the country – they were having a ball. They had some great chants, including "You Can't Do That" after Army penalties, and the even better, "Why So Quiet?" after Navy took a 14-0 lead. My favorite though was what sounded like a political rally as time ticked away in the fourth quarter…the Brigade came together with the once-in-a-lifetime chant of "Ten More Years." The Brigade's creativity was also on display during time-outs. Their spirit spots were exactly what they needed to be: short, easy-to-understand, and hilarious.
5. Finally, Army makes it exciting
After nine relative blowouts in this series, even as a diehard Navy fan, it was great to be able to witness the excitement of a classic, back-and-forth struggle between two bitter rivals. When Army quarterback Trent Steelman found Malcon Brown on a touchdown pass to tie the score at 21 in the third quarter, the excitement in the stadium was palpable. In has been commonplace to see the stadium empty out after halftime in recent years, but on this Saturday, it was tough to spot an empty seat well into the fourth quarter. Of course that came back to bite a lot of folks trying to get out of the parking lot at Fed-Ex Field, but it was a small price to pay for a great game.
4. Army's fourth quarter drive
With Navy leading 27-21 and 10:26 left to play in the game, every Academy graduate from the mid-90s, from both institutions, must have started to have flashbacks. I know I did. As the Cadets marched down the field, each snap became more critical and with each play the crowd noise got louder and louder. It reached a climax on fourth and seven when Navy's Matt Warrick sacked Steelman to stall Army's drive and put the Mids in position for the victory.
3. Every time Jon Teague kicked the ball off the ground
Navy kicker Jon Teague's long season has been well-documented and so each time he came on the field for an extra-point attempt or a field goal, Midshipmen fans had to expect an adventure. And Teague didn't disappoint. On his first extra-point attempt, he hit the upright. And then, with the game very much in doubt, early in the fourth quarter, Teague just barely made a 23-yard field goal to put the Mids up 24-21. However, topping those two close calls, was Teague's best effort of the season when considering all the pressure. With just over 12 minutes to play, Teague just cleared the crossbar for a 44-yard field goal which meant Army would need to score a touchdown to win – which they never were able to do.
2. As emotional as a football game can get
Game organizers knew what they were doing when they lined up Lee Greenwood to sing "Proud to be an American" at halftime. It had all the makings of a great patriotic moment in a game that had a lot of such moments. However, this one was punctuated by both the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen swaying back-and-forth in unison while singing along with Greenwood. And to add another dimension to the already awesome moment was the unfurling of an enormous American flag on the field just as the Navy football team was about to take the field. Instead of charging on the field though, the team huddled in a circle and started to sway themselves in a more macho, ‘getting psyched to play' fashion. If you weren't proud to be an American at that moment, you need to move to Canada immediately.
1. Singing of Blue and Gold
The singing of the alma maters at the conclusion always provides for the best emotion of every Army-Navy game, so the number-one spot on this list, for me at least, will always be the same. If Army had won the game, even as a Navy fan I would have put their song here. The second when the winning team is finished paying their respects to their rivals and turns in a dead sprint to their sideline to sing their own song is the best emotional moment in all of sports. I can only equate it to the feeling Olympians must have when they see the flag of their respective country being raised over their heads during the medal presentation ceremony. For Navy and their fans, even though it's now been ten years in a row, this moment will never get old. For Army and their fans, the next time they get to experience it, it will be a moment they will never forget.