If you ever get a chance to check out a football game at one of this nation’s service academies, I highly recommend you do it. Yesterday, I enjoyed this Delaware-Naval Academy barnburner in Annapolis, Maryland.
The football atmosphere at a service academy is something different altogether. We arrived about an hour and a half before game time and took up prime seats on the grass behind the endzone opposite the players’ entrance (you can sit in the stands for $30 or find a seat on the grass for $20). We munched on BBQ and Chick-fil-A and relaxed for a bit while people slowly filled in. After morning rain, the weather was nice for most of the day, except for when the wind occasionally picked up. We all got a little sunburned (on the last Saturday of October!).
About a half hour before the game, Delaware’s marching band took the field to play one song, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” before yielding to one of the coolest parts of the afternoon — the cadet parade. All the midshipmen battalions marched in formation onto the field, saluted and cheered the Delaware crowd (because, unlike the Dallas Cowboys, they really are “America’s Team”) and then did the same to their own side. The mens’ and women’s glee clubs sang the National Anthem, the midshipmen took their places in the stands (where they literally stood the whole game), and a massive reconnaissance plane did a fly-over.
The game itself was a study in contrasts. The Delaware Blue Hens ran a pro-style, no-huddle West Coast offense, with a lot of shotgun plays and short slants and screens. The Midshipmen, on the other hand, ran a straight-out-of-the-1950s run-only offense. In fact, Navy’s only pass of the first half was a 30-yard completion on a fake field goal. Despite the serious contrast in style, both teams moved the ball up and down the field at will (check out the drive chart). The half ended in a 28-28 tie.
I should note that the crowd was massive–over 35,000 strong–the largest crowd in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium history. I’m sure Delaware’s relative proximity had something to do with it.
Halftime entertainment was the Navy Drum and Bugle Corps, who played “America the Beautiful,” and the Navy and Marine Corps hymns. Second half football action was much like the first, with both offenses having their way on the field. Delaware finally made two consecutive stops–on a fumble and on a 4th down stop–which finally turned the tide in their favor. They built a 10 point lead early in the 4th, and although they didn’t stop Navy again, Navy couldn’t stop the Blue Hens either, resulting in a final score of 59-52 Delaware.
After the game, the Navy football players serenaded the midshipmen in the stands with the Navy hymn while the Delaware players, instead of celebrating their victory, stood silently in respect. Very classy.
I’m glad I wasn’t a Naval cadet yesterday. 52 is a lot of pushups.
After the game we walked around the academy for a bit (I considered getting a “Beat Army” shirt since we got 20 percent off with our game tickets) before heading to Annapolis for some food and drink. All in all, not a bad way to spend the last Saturday of October.