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For the first time in recent memory, the Army-Navy game was supposed to be worth watching. Though the Midshipmen's record was only 4-5-1, they were coming off a stunning upset of South Carolina, which had been undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country before meeting the Middies. At 6-3-1, the Cadets were on their way to their best season in 16 years and to the Cherry Bowl in Pontiac, Mich., where they'll face Michigan State on Dec. 22 in their first appearance in a postseason bowl game. However, instead of a tight struggle, the crowd of 73,180 in Philadelphia—the first Army-Navy sellout since 1971—saw the Cadets put on a wishbone clinic. Led by the legerdemain and running of senior quarterback Nate Sassaman, Army piled up 464 yards (432 on the ground) to win 28-11 and finish the season as the nation's top rushing team (345.3 yards per game). The victory was the Cadets' first over the Middies since 1977, and not since 1949, when Army won 38-0, had the Cadets scored so many points against their archrivals.
The man responsible for Army's resurgence is Jim Young, who coached Purdue from 1977 to '81 and in '83 became West Point's fourth coach in six years. Last year, Young tried the wide-open attack that had clicked for the Boilermakers, who'd had talented passers like Mark Herrmann and Scott Campbell. Without such a thrower, Army went 2-9. Hence his installation of the wishbone.
Young found various unlikely halfbacks for his new offense. Jarvis Hollingsworth, a premed senior who ran for 60 yards against Navy, is a converted receiver. Dee Bryant, who has gained 290 yards this year, had been a defensive back. And Bill Lampley (410 yards) had dropped out of school last season and didn't return until mid-August.
The unexpected hero at fullback is junior Doug Black, who grew up on a farm in Salado, Texas, where he raised pigs for fun and profit. Black tried to walk on as a freshman but was cut. He built himself up for two years by playing intramural football—he also went undefeated in eight bouts as a heavyweight boxer—before he finally got another look. Beginning as the No. 8 fullback in last spring's practice, he worked his way to No. 1 by the start of this season. Against Navy, Black rushed for 155 yards to wind up with a school-record 1,148 on the year.
Sassaman, who ran for 154 yards on Saturday, directed an option offense in high school in Portland, Ore., where he was also the graduation speaker—and a model in every way. "Sometimes I said to myself, 'I wish that boy would do something wrong,' " says his mother, Nancy. "But he was just born that way—very disciplined, very obedient." At West Point, Sassaman played quaterback for two seasons but was switched to safety when Young arrived with his aerial circus. When Young put in the wishbone, he switched Sassaman right back.
Sassaman finished the year with 1,002 yards on the ground, despite playing the last four games with three cracked ribs. "It only hurts when I breathe a lot," said Sassaman after he directed touchdown drives of 80, 71, 52 and 78 yards against Navy and scored twice on runs of nine and six yards. Following his second TD, which made the score 28-3 in the fourth quarter, some 4,200 Cadets took off their tunics to reveal black shirts emblazoned with a Goatbuster insignia on the front and the words WE CAME/WE SAW/WE KICKED THEIR.../BEAT NAVY On the back. Minutes later they removed those shirts to reveal....
The Middies probably wouldn't have gotten kicked so severely had tailback Napoleon McCallum been able to play. As a junior in '83, McCallum was the nation's No. 1 all-purpose runner. This season he hadn't played since breaking his left ankle in the second game. Early last week there was talk of McCallum's playing against Army, but he wasn't ready. Then came the cry, fueled by a column by Thomas Boswell in The Washington Post, imploring the Naval Academy to let McCallum take 1984 as a redshirt year and return for another run at the Heisman next fall. Navy has never redshirted and probably won't start now. In one ruse suggested by Boswell, McCallum could neglect to sign up for enough spring semester courses to graduate in May and then petition an academic review board to "stretch" him out another term. In the end the decision will probably come from the Pentagon, but the Midshipmen, at least, have expressed their opinion. When McCallum was introduced with the rest of the team at the Thursday-night pep rally, the Middies chanted, "Redshirt, redshirt, redshirt."
If he does come back, the tight Army-Navy game projected for 1984 just might be played in '85.
The Golden Abacus Award for 1984 goes to Auburn coach Pat Dye. Trailing 17-15 with 3:27 to go, the Tigers had a fourth-and-goal on the Alabama one-yard line, but Dye chose not to kick a field goal. Instead, Brent Fullwood was thrown for a loss on a sweep as two of his blockers, running backs Bo Jackson and Tommie Agee, went the wrong way after hearing the play as 57-left instead of 56-right-combo. Said Dye of his decision, which probably cost his team a trip to the Sugar Bowl, "It wasn't as if Alabama hadn't been moving the ball on us all day, so we felt we were going for the win. If we execute the way the play is planned, we score easily." After an unsuccessful field-goal try from 42 yards as time expired, Auburn accepted a Liberty Bowl bid, and LSU found itself in the Sugar.
Hours before hearing that he'd won the Heisman Trophy, Boston College's Doug Flutie played his final regular-season game, a 45-10 victory at Holy Cross. One of his three TD passes was to his brother, Darren, a freshman, who also scored on a 20-yard draw. "The touchdown pass to Darren was something I've waited for all year," said Doug.