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Army vs. Navy: Greatest games in history that have helped shape this storied college football rivalry

It’s annually a can’t-miss event when Army and Navy take to the football field, and that’s been especially accurate in recent years as the rivalry has been as competitive as ever. Nine of the last 12 meetings between the service academies have been decided by a touchdown or less, including last year’s 20-17 overtime win for the Black Knights. 

Unmatched is the pageantry and history of this game, as well as the meaning, specifically as it pertains to the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. By virtue of its early-November upset win over Air Force, Army comes into this one with the chance to claim the coveted prize outright for the first time since 2020 if its able to defeat its arch rival. Should Navy emerge victorious, however, the trophy would be shared between the three academies as Air Force defeated Navy earlier this season. 

While last year’s overtime Army victory was a thriller, it doesn’t quite crack the ranks of the rivalry’s most historic games. Considering Army and Navy have been playing since the late 19th century, there have been countless notable moments in their series, some of which stand out among the greatest games in college football history.

The Midshipmen lead the all-time series 62-54-7 as the foes prepare to meet again Saturday on CBS at 3 p.m. ET.

As Army and Navy prepare to play to cap the 2023 college football regular season, here is a look back at the most memorable matchups from the storied rivalry.

5. 1983: Navy 42, Army 13, 

The first and only game played west of the Mississippi — at the Rose Bowl.

The teams combined for just five total wins in 1983, but their game with each other was particularly memorable because of where it took place. For the first and only time in series history, they played west of the Mississippi River at the Rose Bowl, with Navy winning 42-13 in front of 81,347. Funds were raised for the student bodies of both institutions to make the journey, and the week included a night at Disneyland for the cadets, the midshipmen and their families. 

4. 1944: Army 42, Navy 13

Army began its greatest period on the gridiron as the military secured some of its greatest victories on the World War Two battlefield. The Knights won three straight national titles while going undefeated from 1944 through 1946. A 23-7 win over Navy in 1944 was particularly significant because it snapped a five-game losing streak to the Midshipmen in which Army had scored just six total points.

3. 2016: Army 21, Navy 17

Army breaks a 14-game Navy winning streak.

Navy carried a 14-game winning streak in the series and a 9-3 season record into the 2016 meeting. But in coach Jeff Monken’s third year, the Black Knights were 6-5 and on the rise after five straight losing seasons. Ultimately, Army’s defense held Navy to just 201 total yards and secured a monumental 21-17 win. But it came with plenty of drama. Navy erased a 14-point deficit and took the lead before Ahmad Bradshaw’s 9-yard touchdown run with six minutes left lifted Army to victory.

2. 1963: Navy 21, Army 15

The debut of instant replay in a game postponed a week due to the mourning period after the assassination of President Kennedy.

With the nation in a state of mourning after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the game was pushed back a week. More than 100,000 witnessed a thriller, with Army mounting a late comeback that fell just short as a Navy team led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach delivered a 21-15 victory. The game secured Navy’s place in the Cotton Bowl and served as a welcome distraction for a healing nation. The meeting was also significant because of a technological breakthrough, as CBS television viewers witnessed instant replays in a broadcast for the first time.

1. 1926: Army 21, Navy 21

Both teams were undefeated. Seen by 100,000 at Soldier Field. Considered by many to be one of the greatest college games in history.

The spectacle itself makes this game one of the most significant in the series as the teams played in front of more than 100,000 spectators at the dedication of Soldier Field, which was constructed as a memorial to those who died in World War One. But the stakes of the game — and the outcome — only add to the lore. Both were undefeated, and the right to claim a national title was at stake as they battled to a 21-21 tie. But since Army had already a tie on its schedule against Notre Dame, Navy ended up claiming a national title.

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