‘You Could Hardly Tell The Army Mule From The Navy Goat’

The Cadets and the Middies have now met 112 times on the gridiron, but with all due respect to contrary opinions, no game in this series has ever topped the epic struggle that these two unbeaten juggernauts staged in 1926.  Not only was it the only time that the soldiers and the sailors had ever gone into the contest with perfect records, but to top it off, the afternoon also witnessed the dedication of Chicago’s historic Soldier Field, with by an overflow crowd of 110,000 crammed into every seat, every aisle and every crow’s roost from one end zone to the other and well beyond.

At the beginning it was all Navy, and by the time the second quarter had barely begun, the Middies held a pair of unanswered touchdowns and an air of inevitability.  But before the boys in the pool parlors could cash in their wagers, the Cadets stormed back to tie the game at halftime and scored what in turn looked to be the winning touchdown in the waning moments of the third quarter.  Now it was the Army’s turn to count its chickens.

But if there was anything to be learned from this greatest of all Army-Navy games, it was that there wasn’t a gram of quit in either the Hudson or the Severn elevens.  Back fought the Navy, and once again the score was knotted,  as darkness began to set it over the field, to a point where it was said that “you could hardly tell the Army mule from the Navy goat.”  Of course this was well before the coming of lighted stadiums and “prime time” sporting events, let alone the concept of viewing games on king sized theater screens in the comfort of your home..

And so shivering in the lakefront winds and barely able to see the players below (let alone the mule and the goat), the two teams struggled back and forth in a desperate search of a miracle.  But when the Army’s usually reliable field goal kicker had the wind sweep his final attempt just wide of the goalpost, that was the last word for the offenses, and when the final gun sounded both teams remained unbeaten and swathed in glory.  For the pageantry of the occasion and the drama of two mighty teams fighting to a standstill, there has never been a game quite like it.

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