New England Patriots

New England Patriots

L-R: Navy QB Xavier Arline, DL Jacob Busic, and LB Will Harbour, Navy head coach Brian Newberry, Army head coach Jeff Monken, Army LB Leo Lowin and LB Jimmy Ciarlo (Alex Barth/98.5 The Sports Hub)

We’re just over a week away from Gillette Stadium playing host to its first ever Army-Navy Game. The two academies will face off next Saturday, Dec. 9 in Foxborough.

All of the eyes of the college football world will be on next week’s game. Army-Navy is the lone game on college football’s schedule for the week, with the rest of the teams off between conference championship weekend and the start of bowl season.

Yes, the eyes of the nation will be on these two teams next week. For those unfamiliar with the game and not as invested in college football, that may come as a surprise. But to college football fans and those involved with the academies, this game holds very special meaning.

On Wednesday, coaches and captains from both teams attended a media event at Gillette Stadium to kick off the festivities around the game. The passion from the game came through clear. Let them tell you what this game means, starting with the coaches…

  • Oct 7, 2023; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken stands with his players at Michie Stadium. Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 7, 2023; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken stands with his players at Michie Stadium. Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    “Frankly, I don’t think there’s a better rivalry in sports, to be honest with you,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said on Wednesday. “There’ll be conference championships next week, the National Championship Game is coming up, rivalry weekend in college football last Saturday, and those are great games. But I don’t think any of compare to the Army-Navy Game.”

    “The fact is that every competitor on the field next weekend, and every one of their classmates sitting in the stands made a pledge to serve our country. They’re willing to pay the ultimate price for everybody that watches the game,” added Monken, who will be taking part in his 10th Army-Navy Game as a head coach this year, and 17th overall (he was an assistant coach at Navy from 2002-2007).

    “So the 22 guys who are running around out there playing on every play during the game, they are willing to put their lives on the line for the nine million people watching on TV and 70,000 people that are watching in the stands,” he continued. “That’s a pretty incredible thing. So I think it makes it very special.”

  • Nov 11, 2023; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Navy Midshipmen head coach Brian Newberry looks onto the field during the second half against the Navy Midshipmen t Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 11, 2023; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Navy Midshipmen head coach Brian Newberry looks onto the field during the second half against the Navy Midshipmen t Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    “It’s really difficult to describe,” said Navy head coach Brian Newberry when asked to explain the game to people unfamiliar with the rivalry. “Just the the scene, the energy, the pageantry, just the pride that you have being a part of the game. There’s nothing like it. There’s no college football game like it. There’s the pure effort and fight that both teams will play with on Saturday, there’s no game like that in the country. I don’t care if you take Georgia-Alabama, some of the biggest robberies in college football. All 11 guys playing as hard as they do, and the pride they play with and playing for each other, it’s a special day and there’s really nothing like it.”

    This will be Newberry’s fourth year taking part in the Army-Navy Game but his first as head coach, after he was hired to replace 15-year head coach Ken Niumatalolo in the offseason. On Wednesday, Newberry recalled his first game as Navy’s defensive coordinator in 2019.

    “I’ve had four of these, and so thank goodness it’s not my first time because I can tell you back in ’19 I was the defensive coordinator and I can remember I was up in the press box and I could hardly write my pencil I was so anxious and nervous when a ball got kicked off, he recalled.”

    Along those lines, Newberry noted this isn’t the kind of game he’ll have to get his team fired up for. If anything, he’ll be doing the opposite.

    “You certainly don’t have to motivate [the players] to play in this game. You kind of have to pull them back a little bit. These games, we know our kids are going to play out of their minds as far as their effort and physicality. The main focus is their ability to focus, play in and play out and not let the game be a distraction and the surroundings be a distraction. You’ve got to block out the noise,” he said. “It doesn’t take a miracle to win this game. It just takes you being the best version of yourself and doing your job and having all 11 guys do that, because it comes down to execution.”

  • Sep 9, 2023; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights linebacker Leo Lowin (31) during the first half against the Delaware State Hornets at Michie Stadium. Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 9, 2023; West Point, New York, USA; Army Black Knights linebacker Leo Lowin (31) during the first half against the Delaware State Hornets at Michie Stadium. Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    Meanwhile, the players talked about how a win in the Army-Navy Game can potentially define both their seasons and even careers playing at the academies.

    “It’s like none other. You know how much this game means to you, means to your teammates, especially it means to these seniors,” said senior Army linebacker and captain Leo Lowin. “This is our last go at [facing Navy]. Last go to win the Commander-In-Chief’s Championship [the trilateral trophy between the three service academies that is on the line on Saturday].”

    “It’s something we talk about all year.,” Lowin added, highlighting just how much of a focus this rivalry is for the team on a day-to-day basis. “We say ‘Beat Navy’ every day.”

    Senior Navy quarterback Xavier Arline told reporters that, “a win would mean everything” to the Midshipmen.

    “The season hasn’t gone exactly how we wanted it to,” he said. “But a win in this game can wipe those feelings out and give this program so much momentum going into the offseason.”

  • Sep 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (49) takes the field to warm up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona (49) takes the field to warm up before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona was also on hand and spoke at the event. Cardona played his college football at Navy and was a four-year starter from 2011-2014. He went undefeated, 4-0, against Army in his time with the Midshipmen. His advice for fans interested in the game?

    “One thing I’d stress to a casual football fan or a Patriots fan thinking about the game is that this is something that is unique,” Cardona said. “There’s college football and the landscape of college football has changed a lot. You have an importance of sports betting, and you have this resurgence of NIL and a transfer portal. The kids that are playing in this game couldn’t care less about any of those things. All they care about is going out there and proving their brothers in the same uniform as them and that they have their back and proving to the other side that they’re tough enough to earn their trust.”

    “You’re going to see the pageantry of the student bodies. You’re going to see people that are incredibly proud of their service academy and of the individuals that are out there on the field,” he continued. “It’s an experience that’s uniquely American and it’s one that we need to cherish, and it’s an institution that we can never let falter and let slip.”

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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