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Archive for Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Commentary: Navy victory highlights wacky year

November 7, 2007

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A major announcement from Capt. Margaret D. Klein, commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy, came down swiftly Saturday to every midshipman (male or female) and every red-blooded future officer (gentleman or not) right after Navy's football game at Notre Dame:

No classes on Monday!

Now there's a way to make sailors throw their caps in the air. A 43-years-in-the-making, triple-overtime, 46-44 Naval conquest of the Fighting Irish was viewed in Annapolis as such a rip-roaring triumph, class was dismissed.

"I've been here 17 years, and I have never seen or heard of anything like this," Navy's associate athletic director, Scott Strasemeier, said Monday when I reached him on the phone at the academy.

College football's craziest season continues.

Add this one to Appalachian State winning at Michigan.

Add it to Stanford stunning USC.

Add it to Kansas piling up 76 points on Nebraska.

Add it to Boise State winning a game 69-67.

Add it to a tiny Texas school called Trinity winning a game with 15 laterals on the last play.

Notre Dame's season has been nutty enough, but to lose to Navy for the first time since 1963 - in triple OT, yet - officially makes this one a hallucinatory football season from here to eternity.

I don't know why, but I have an image of Charlie Weis right now, disturbed as Capt. Queeg, rolling steel balls in the palm of his hand.

Ever since the era when Roger Staubach stood at the helm, Navy's teams have put themselves in harm's way against those mighty fighting men of South Bend without so much as a medal for good conduct to show for it.

They wanted this one, oh, so badly.

Matt Wimsatt, a linebacker whose two older brothers are U.S. Marines, made a brave statement before Saturday's game. He said to defeat Notre Dame would be "bigger for us than beating Army."

That's big. But this was the year. They could feel it.

Their coach, Paul Johnson, led his Midshipmen into battle by telling them three things: "No. 1, you've got to believe you can win. No. 2, you've got to believe you can win. And No. 3, you've got to believe you can win."

At halftime, shortly after a play by one of his players that Johnson described as "bonehead," the coach put it to the men once again:

"Do you believe you can win?"

"Yes, sir!" they obeyed.

What followed were moments Navy's men and women will remember for much of their lives, long after they become ensigns and go off to serve and save our country.

There was 5-foot-6-inch Reggie Campbell's touchdown catch and two-point conversion in the third OT that decided the game.

There was a tackle of Notre Dame's Travis Thomas by defensive end Michael Walsh and linebacker Irv Spencer inside the Navy 2-yard line that ended the game.

Navy's victory was so monumental that even plebes, first-year students, were allowed to go off campus Sunday, a day they traditionally are under orders to remain in the library or dorms. A throng of more than 1,000 met the Midshipmen when they flew home from South Bend.

Meanwhile, I can guess what Notre Dame's students and grads must be thinking about now:

Are we going to beat Air Force in this Saturday's game?

And who's going to beat us after that ... the Coast Guard, maybe?

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