Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy
One of the most iconic and historically significant rivalries, the Army-Navy Game is typically the final game of the regular season.
Over the years, Army and Navy have played some classics. More often than not, the better team wins.
One of the bigger upsets in the history of the rivalry however, took place on this day 70 years ago. Navy handed Army its only loss of the season and snapped a 27-game unbeaten streak with a 14-2 victory.
Setting the Stage
Army had dreams of winning a fourth national championship in seven years as it made its way to Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia on Dec. 2, 1950. The Black Knights were 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country. Army had won 17 games in a row and had gone unbeaten for 27 straight games.
Navy was in the midst of a disappointing 2-6 season. The Midshipmen had gone 0-5-1 in their last six games against Army, but were the only team to tie the Black Knights during their unbeaten streak. On that day in Philadelphia, Navy did much more than tie.
About 103,000 people, including U.S. President Harry Truman, gathered at Municipal Stadium to see the contest. The star of the show was Navy’s 210-pound quarterback Bob Zastrow.
Zastrow accounted for the game’s only two touchdowns and all the game’s scoring if one accounts for the fact that he was also sacked in the end zone for Army’s lone safety. All 14 Navy points came in the second quarter.
Following a fumble by Army’s Al Pollard inside his own 30-yard-line, Zastrow scored from seven yards out to get the scoring started midway through the second period. With less than a minute to play in the first half, Zastrow doubled the Midshipmen lead by evading a pair of Army defenders before finding Jim Baldinger in the end zone. Baldinger was able to outwork the Army defense for the catch and score.
The third quarter is when Army finally got on the board. Zastrow was flushed on a pass attempt, but elected to take a sack in the end zone instead of force a throw. The Black Knights never made much of a threat after that.
Navy not only won the contest, but dominated statistically. The Midshipmen finished with 200 yards on the ground to just 77 for Army. Navy nearly doubled Army’s offense output with 268 yards to 137 for the Black Knights.
The loss would end any hope that Army had of a national championship. Earl “Red” Blaik’s team would finish second in the final polls behind Oklahoma.
With the win, Navy scored its first victory over Army since 1943. Eddie Erdelatz was in his first year as Navy head coach in 1950 and went on to beat Army in each of his first three tries. He went 5-3-1 against the Black Knights in nine seasons with the Midshipmen.
Among those five wins, perhaps the most impressive was the monumental upset in his first season. It took place on this day seven decades ago.