Chris Frankin Navy’s recent victory, and Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s latest success.
Navy Midshipmen takes the field prior to the start of the 115th annual Army-Navy game against the Army Black Knights at M&T Bank Stadium. (Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
BALTIMORE (C+P) — Army-Navy
The two are intertwined. Both institutions embody tradition, struggles and history. They invoke black and white images of The Four Horsemen. It brings to mind players like Roger Staubach. Just as what their purpose is for the country, the two institutions have gone to war with each other 115 times. Cadets and Midshipmen marched onto the field in unison and then into their seats. The flyovers of both helicopters and jets over the 70,935 people at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. No matter if it was the first game in 1890 or the one that took place Dec. 13, 2014, the game is bigger than any one person. Navy went on to win the game 17-10. In the game, some new chapters were added to the game’s history.
Ken Niumatalolo has been through eight different Army-Navy games as a head coach. With the victory, Niumatalolo became the winningest coach in Navy history. Niumatalolo has the respect and admirations of his players. Two players carried him on their shoulders after finding out that he had achieved the record.
“I could not be more proud of our group of seniors,” said an emotional Niumatalolo after the game. “In this game, there is always a lot of emotion because of the finality of the game. I am very proud of our seniors. Our country is in good hands on both sides.”
“It is kind of cool when you got the final four (college football playoff), players trying to unionize, trying to get more pay. But here you’ve got two schools that just want to beat each other up and then shaking hands after the game. A year or so later, they will be serving together to protect our freedoms.”
The Hawaiian native currently has 56 head coaching wins at Navy. The feat places him a top the list of the 37 coaches in Navy history, eight of which are currently in the College Football Hall of Fame. He has also been a part of Navy’s current streak of 13 straight wins against Army. Niumatalolo’s outlook on the winning streak leading up to the game was successful.
“Our approach has been to not talk about the streak…None of the other games have any bearing on this game. It is not like you can carry the points over. We’ve always approached it that way. It is a heck of a run. You have to tip your hat to all of the players who have come before and the coaches that have been involved.”
One person instrumental in the win was Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds, a junior quarterback, has or is on pace to break many records. During the game, Reynolds passed the former University of Texas quarterback Vince Young into 17th place for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in NCAA history (3,177). However, Reynolds is more focused on team wins and his coach.
“It does not get much better,” Reynolds said. “It is kind of like two amazing things on one day, continuing the streak and also giving him the all-time winningest coach in Navy history. It does not get much better than that for us, to send him out like that, and what better way to give him that record than to beat Army.”
Navy is playing its last season as an independent. In 2015, the Midshipmen will join the American Athletic Conference. With a conference that has some good established coaching talent and potentially good new coaches hired, Niumatalolo will have no problem fitting in that group. Coaching is a stressful job. When adding a winning streak to the magnitude that Navy currently has, one would think that all the pressure is now on Army to win. Not for Navy’s coach.
“In this profession, every game is pressure. I’ve been trying to lose weight for the last 20 years, and I am still 260 pounds. Since I’ve been a head coach, there have been a lot of sleepless nights. I keep telling my wife ‘Why am I in this profession?’ just to quit and retire and go back to Hawaii to a beach and chill, there is always pressure.”
Jeff Monken was able to experience the Army-Navy game as Army’s head coach. The first-year Black Knight coach has known his counterpart for a while and has much respect for him.
“Kenny is my dear friend. Kenny and I share a bond of friendship that has lasted 25 years, and it goes beyond just a colleague working together. There’s a sense of brotherhood between he and I. We were young assistant coaches together and worked for six years under coach [Paul] Johnson. I love Kenny. I am so proud of him and the job he is doing and I know the feelings are mutual.”
As time continues forward, there will always be some things that will be inevitable. Technology will continue to adapt, conference affiliations will change, and the players and coaches will come and go. One thing is sure to remain the same. The pride and spectacle that is the Army-Navy game will never change. It is something that everyone in America should enjoy.