- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

There’s no doubt it’s Navy-Air Force week.

A group of Naval Academy exchange students painted an Air Force plane on the Colorado Springs, Colo., campus blue and gold.

A record crowd is expected tomorrow for the Midshipmen’s first game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium against Air Force since 1997. The intensity at practice is higher among both the players and the coaches in Annapolis. Former defensive captain Andy Thompson — who was one of the featured players in the book “A Civil War” — spoke to the team after practice Tuesday.

Still, something is missing. The verbal jousting between the two teams, which is usually a staple leading up to this game and was provocative last year, is nowhere to be found.

“We’re not trying to give them anything to put on a bulletin board to get those guys motivated,” Navy quarterback Lamar Owens said. “On this side, we’re not a team that talks a lot. We know what there is at stake this week. We just want to keep the [Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy] here, and that’s enough motivation. We don’t have to talk about it.”

Last season Air Force players were annoyed after being told by their coaching staff that Navy had purchased rings for winning the trophy for the first time since 1981 (they were actually Houston Bowl rings). Some were enraged to find Kyle Eckel-for-Heisman leaflets in their lockers (there were no such items produced in Annapolis).

The trash talk took off from there, and nearly every day brought new verbal shots in area newspapers and those in Colorado. This season, players and coaches from both sides have kept a more respectful tone.

“You guys [in the media] love that stuff, don’t you?” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “I think some of that stuff has been embellished.”

Navy has defeated Air Force each of the past two seasons, which may be the cause for the lack of talk from the Falcons. Air Force held the trophy for 13 of the previous 14 seasons before the Midshipmen beat the Falcons 28-25 at FedEx Field in 2003.

When Navy won at Air Force last season 24-21 on a late field goal by Geoff Blumenfeld, it marked the first time the Mids had won back-to-back games against the Falcons since winning three straight from 1977 to 1979.

“This is obviously a very, very important football game,” Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. “It is the first leg of what is the No. 1 goal of our football program as I am sure it is the main goal of their program. I’m sure it is going to be a whale of a football game.”

The trophy is encased in the rotunda area of Bancroft Hall, the academy’s dormitory. Navy’s players walk past it every day, providing plenty of motivation to keep it.

“It’s big not only for us but for the morale of the brigade,” Owens said. “Also for the guys who went on before us and played Navy football that never had a chance to [see the trophy in Bancroft]. They’re kind of living through us right now.”

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