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9/27/09

Navy Marine Corps Stadium - 50 years



In front of a sold-out crowd, Navy took the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Annapolis, Maryland. Behind their fleet-footed quarterback, the Midshipmen racked up 289 yards rushing, cruising to victory by a score of 29-2. The final cannon to end the game sent the Brigade on their way to celebrate the win at O'Brien's, Armadillo's and Castlebay.


The year was 1959, and Navy had just trounced William & Mary at home, in the first game held at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy QB Jim Maxfield rushed for two touchdowns and fullback Joe Matalavage added another on an 86-yard run that sealed the Mids' win.


Not too much has changed in fifty years. The Midshipmen have led Division I football in yards gained on the ground in five of the last six seasons, with the potent attack led by the starting quarterback, fullback and stable of runners in the Navy backfield.


This Saturday, Navy will honor its 1959 team at halftime as they take on Western Kentucky. The Mids' also plan to dress in throwback 1959 uniforms for the occasion.


Western Kentucky presents another test for the Midshipmen who for the third straight year are 1-2 to start the season. However, Western Kentucky has yet to secure a victory in 2009 and the Mids should be able to commemorate fifty years in their new home with a win.


Navy's schedule hasn't exactly been a walk in the park thus far. Opening the season with a heartbreaking loss at Ohio State, Navy rebounded in its home opener, beating Louisiana Tech. Miscues on special teams led to Navy's second loss vs. Pittsburgh last Saturday.


Despite poor records to open their season, Navy has rebounded well in this decade. Navysports.com notes that since 2003, Navy has a 19-6 (.760) record in games following a loss. So far this year, Navy has improved that average.


The fanfare in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will begin, as always, with the Brigade of Midshipmen marching on to the field, saluting both the home crowd and away fans, and will be accompanied by a flyover in classic Navy tradition. For anyone in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area who have never witnessed this spectacle, it's worth the quick drive on the Beltway. Four thousand Midshipmen marching in step, dressed in summer whites or winter blues trumps Ohio State's "dotting the I" tradition any day.


As far as tradition and history are concerned, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is as rich as they come. Two Heisman trophy winners have played at the "new" stadium (Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino) and President Eisenhower attended a game in 1960. Tens of thousands of Navy and Marine Corps Officers have been commissioned in the stadium (also used for graduation ceremonies) presided over by presidents, generals, admirals and heads of state.


In 2004, the stadium underwent a $40-million dollar renovation, updating the original $3 million dollar structure to accommodate future needs. The grass field was replaced with a new FieldTurf surface, club level seating was added, two state-of-the-art video scoreboards were installed, as well as an expansive press tower and dining facilities for reunions and special functions. The entire project was privately funded by the Naval Academy Foundation and Naval Academy Athletic Association (NAAA).


The stadium was rededicated on October 8, 2005, promptly followed by a Navy win over Air Force, 27-24. Navy hopes to continue its trend of winning games of historical significance on Saturday, with kick-off scheduled for 3:30pm EST.


Irregardless of the game's outcome, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will continue to house a tradition of athletic excellence, as well as serve as a reminder for those who have paid the ultimate price in service for our nation. To those who will play the game Saturday, representing the Naval Academy on the field means more than football.


The dedication plaque which at the stadium puts it best: "This Stadium is dedicated to those who have served and will serve as upholders of the traditions and renown of the Navy and Marine Corps of the United States. May it be a perpetual reminder that the Navy and Marine Corps are organizations of men trained to live nobly and serve courageously in peace, champions of our integrity; in war, defenders of our freedom."

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