Consistent Navy still has bowl left after Army

Consistent Navy still has bowl left after Army

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Army vs. Navy always ranks as the five-star game on the schedule for each service academy.

Nothing tops the regular season finale in pride, pageantry and prestige.

The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy is indeed up for grabs, too, and Army has serious incentive - other than the obvious motivation - to beat Navy this season in the annual game. But win or lose, Army's season ends on Saturday. For Navy - like it has for most of the Ken Niumatalolo Era - there is another game to play. A bowl game and another opportunity to fine-tune an ultra-consistent program.

The Midshipmen come to Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Eagles, on Saturday looking to extend their series-record winning streak with their 11th straight victory over the Black Knights. Before Navy started its run, the longest winning streak in the series, started in 1890, was only five games. Navy opened as an 8 1/2-point favorite over the Black Knights in their 113th meeting, putting win No. 11 firmly on the horizon.

But there is more to every Navy season than just this game. Under Niumatalolo, a postseason berth has become almost automatic.

The Midshipmen (7-4) rebounded from a 5-7 season last year to play Arizona State in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Francisco. Niumatalolo took over for Paul Johnson in 2007 in time to coach in the Poinsettia Bowl, then led the Midshipmen to three straight bowl games on his own. In fact, Navy had made a bowl game from 2003-2010 until last season's stumble, solidifying itself as the class of the service academies, and earning bragging rights for more than the CIC trophy.

It wasn't always this way, of course. When Johnson was hired in 2002, in fact, Navy was coming off the worst two-year span in its 123-year history (1-20) and had only two winning seasons in the previous 20 years. Navy plays an independent schedule and has no automatic tie-in to any of the bowls. But the Midshipmen have earned credibility and a recruiting boost with regular wins over the Black Knights and yearly holiday-time trips to sunny destinations.

``I don't really know what the formula is, we just continue to try and win,'' Niumatalolo said. ``We just try and work hard. We've got hard-nosed kids, some good kids, just like Army does. Our biggest thing is play into the intangibles of teamwork, work ethic, discipline, all those things to overcome lack of size and speed.''

Last season's backslide trickled into this season after a 1-3 start that included a 50-10 loss to Notre Dame. But a 28-21 overtime win over Air Force on Oct. 28 was the start of a five-game win streak that led to the Mids winning six of their final seven.

Beat Army, and the season becomes a special one.

``This is not a game you want to lose,'' Navy receiver Bo Snelson said. ``It's not something I want to have happen for our senior class.''

Army is tired of ending its season against Navy. Like the Midshipmen, the Black Knights want to keep playing and get to a bowl game. Army won the Armed Forces Bowl in 2010 - its only bowl game since 1996 and second since 1988. But the Mids are somehow finding it easier to play into late December.

It wasn't easy. Niumatalolo has built a winning tradition under the toughest of recruiting pitches: Football is the easiest thing to do in Annapolis, Md. No dreams of first-round, draft-pick stardom and multimillion dollar contracts here. Last week, Navy's 28 seniors received their service assignments. Graduates of the Naval Academy serve a minimum of five years in the Navy or Marine Corps, while pilots serve eight years upon earning their wings.

There are day-to-day rules and traditions at the Naval Academy that supersede anything that happens on the football field, too. More than games lie ahead for Navy's football players.

``We're not trying to detract from any of the missions of what our great institution stands for,'' Niumatalolo said. ``That's been the biggest battle. I think a lot of people understand it and embrace it. But there's some people (at the academy) that think we're just a football machine, trying to create a football powerhouse.

``And that's not who we are.''

Maybe not in the traditional college football landscape. But on one Saturday each December, at least for a long while, there's no team in the land better than Navy.


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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream:
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: