PHILADELPHIA – Army junior linebacker Jeremy Timpf was assessing the direction of the program during Army-Navy media day last week when invariably discussion turned to "The Streak." At West Point, players have grown weary of talking about losing 13 in a row to the Midshipmen, but the question is going to be inescapable until Army beats its archrival again.
The last time that happened was in 2001, when the Black Knights won 26-17, less than three months after the Sept. 11 attacks. It was the final Army-Navy game at Veterans Stadium, and Black Knights senior linebacker Clint Dodson celebrated by climbing the wall in front the Corps of Cadets and leading a rendition of the Army fight song.
Before the game, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, a West Point graduate, addressed the Cadets in the locker room, while Sen. John McCain, a Navy graduate, spoke to the Midshipmen in their locker room. President George W. Bush took part in the coin toss.
But since that emotional afternoon, nine senior classes at West Point have endured only disappointment in a series that dates from 1890. This will be the 116th meeting in the rivalry.
"Yeah, I am sick of hearing about The Streak," said Timpf, a co-captain for the Black Knights (2-9), "so we're going try to do something to change that."
Three of the Black Knights' past four losses to Navy, 9-2 this season and ranked No. 21 in the final College Football Playoff poll, have been by seven points or fewer. Six losses this year under Coach Jeff Monken have come by the same margin. Monken, in his second season at West Point, owns the distinction of having been on both sidelines during the rivalry's lopsided recent history.
From 2002 to 2007, Monken served as an assistant at Navy under Paul Johnson. Also on the staff was Ken Niumatalolo, an associate head coach at the time who would go on to replace Johnson when he left to take over at Georgia Tech. Monken followed Johnson to Atlanta before becoming head coach at Georgia Southern and then Army.
Army has won 14 total games over the past five years and owns one winning season since 1997. The Black Knights haven't strung together consecutive seasons with at least a .500 record since 1995 and 1996.
"It would be easy for a team that hasn't had sustained success, which we haven't for many years, to be really discouraged and just say, 'This isn't working. I don't believe in the direction we're going. I don't believe in this coach. I don't believe in my teammates,' " Monken said. "They're quite the opposite. They've come back with a determination each week."
That begins with the likes of Timpf and senior co-captain Matt Giachinta. The starting fullback is fourth on Army in rushing and part of an option offense that ranks eighth in the country (254 yards per game).