Army's football team is looking to end a down season on a high note by extending its win streak against Navy to four games in the 120th Army-Navy Game today at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Army enters the matchup with a 5-7 record, missing a bowl game for the first time since 2015. But a win Saturday would mark a clean sweep for Army's seniors in the historic rivalry that previously saw Navy peel off 14 consecutive victories.
"This senior class has meant a lot for the program and the contributions they've made," said Army football coach Jeff Monken. "I know it would mean a lot to this class to complete their career with a win over Navy and the ability to go 4-0."
The Black Knights began the season promisingly, winning three of their first four games and taking then-No. 7 Michigan to overtime in Ann Arbor. But they limped through the rest of the season, with a 52-31 loss to Hawaii the last time they took the field.
Heading into Army-Navy week, Monken said none of that mattered.
"The only thing that is fun about this game is winning it," Monken said. "There's a lot of pageantry and there's a lot of pomp and circumstance that surrounds the game, but really none of it is there for my enjoyment. My enjoyment is all based on our winning that game. And when you don't, man it is tough, because we pour everything we've got into it. You walk around our building and you see the things that say 'Beat Navy' 365 days a year. Those are up for a reason. It's an incredible rivalry."
Monken mostly knows victory in this series. He was an assistant coach for Navy under Paul Johnson from 2002 to 2007, during Navy's victory streak. And after taking over as the head coach at Army in 2014, he eventually broke the Mids' streak and has won three in a row.
Navy is poised to flip the script, having returned to the national rankings on the strength of nine wins. But the past five matchups between the programs have been decided by one score, highlighting a close familiarity and opportunity for either team to prevail.
Army will continue to rely on a rushing game that is second in the country. The three-headed attack has been led by senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr., who has 761 yards this season. Senior running back Connor Slomka has 637 yards, while junior running back Sandon McCoy leads the way with 10 touchdowns to go along with 557 yards.
Hopkins, the first quarterback in program history to pass and rush for 1,000 yards apiece -- a record set in 2018 -- has struggled with injuries and inconsistency this year. He is listed with a leg injury, and may not start.
"A lot of guys want to come up to the seniors and talk about how 'we'll try to do it for you guys, want to get this last win for y'all.' Really, for me the message is, do it for yourselves. It's a big deal to continue your own streak. Yeah, we want to go 4-0, but it's just as important for you guys to go 2-0, to go 1-0 and get that first win against Navy," Hopkins said.
The defense is led by senior defensive back Elijah Riley and senior linebacker Cole Christiansen. Each has been selected to participate in postseason all-star games.
Christiansen said the seniors are well aware that they would join rare company if they can pull off a sweep of Navy.
"It's exactly what we were recruited to West Point to do: to beat Navy," Christiansen said in an interview for the Army-Navy Preview Show. "We want to keep that alive, and join the small fraternity - there's not a lot of people who've said they beat Navy four times in a row."