In the end, Army-Navy uplifts us all

The Navy Midshipmen charge onto the field before Saturday’s game against Army. (Elsa/Getty Images) While maybe you wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of the kind of grind-it-out football that Army and Navy inevitably play, there is one very reassuring take-away from Saturday’s Black Knights 14-13 victory over the Midshipmen:

If, as future soldiers and sailors these players hold their positions like they hold the football, then we can all sleep well at night.

There were but a total of five possessions in the second half, as both teams put their time-consuming option offenses to work. There were no interceptions – hardly a surprise, what with only three passes total thrown all afternoon. More surprisingly after all the hand-offs and pitches were done, no fumbles.

The other day when Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, the progenitor for option offenses run by both Army and Navy, was asked about why it fits the service academies so well, he said, “The offense is a team-oriented offense. More than highlighting individuals, it highlights a group effort and a team effort.”

You want them up there running the option. You need them up there running the option.

One individual, however, did distinguish himself, if in a losing cause. Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry pretty much was the Middies’ offense, rushing for 250 yards (they had 296 yards of total offense). As he was breaking a 68-yard touchdown run in the second half, you were straining to remember the last time you had seen anyone move that fast in the snow. Oh, yeah, it was the last Olympic giant slalom.

Yet, even as Navy controlled much of the game, Army would not put down the idea of winning. That attitude inspired the Black Knights coach to proclaim afterward, “Momentum is just attitude!” Don’t know if it will join the roster of great military sayings, but it sounded good at the time.

Now, with a win over San Diego State in the Military Bowl on Dec. 23, Army would have its first 10-win season in 21 years.

But, really, some of the most lasting images of this game had little to do with the football.

Like this: Yes, Army and Navy are the kind of rivals that dream of beating each other 364 days a year – maybe they take one day off to decompress. Yet, no two teams can pull off a joint mission better.

Saturday, for instance, both teams wore decals on their helmets featuring the initials “JJ” inside a small heart. That stands for Jarren Jasper, son of Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper. The 14-year-old, who was unable to travel to Philadelphia for the game, is awaiting a heart transplant.

Neither team was even on the field when this little scene played out, and few even saw it. It was nonetheless perfect for the setting:

Well before the march-on of Cadets and Midshipmen – still morning in Philly – a couple young men began tracing a message in the undisturbed snow at midfield. “Beat Army,” they wrote in large letters.Wonder how long that would last? […]