Military Academy Bowl History

Wrapping Up the 2015 College Football Season

CollegeHeaderTonight marks the conclusion of the college football bowl season, when Alabama and Clemson square off for the National Championship. Since the military is comprised of fans and alumni of many different schools in FBS, we hope you all got to watch your favorite teams compete in their respective bowl games – including those of you who will be intently watching the Crimson Tide and the Tigers go at it tonight.

Two of the country’s military academies also played in the postseason this year – the Navy Midshipmen and the Air Force Falcons. The Army Black Knights weren’t quite as fortunate in 2015, but the program has a rich history as well.

To wrap up the college football bowl season, we’ve put together a myriad of information about their performances in 2015, their bowl histories, and interesting tidbits and trivia about each program. Check out our infographic below the raw facts and figures.


The Rundown:

  • Colors: Navy blue and gold
  • Mascot: Bill the Goat
  • Bowl record: 10-10-1
  • Most bowl appearances: Poinsettia Bowl (4)
  • Largest bowl game attendance: 1955 Sugar Bowl (83,000)
  • First appearance: 1924 Rose Bowl (T 14-14 vs. Washington Huskies)
  • Most recent appearance: 2015 Military Bowl (W 44-28 vs. Pittsburgh Panthers)

The 2015 Season:

Navy enjoyed its first year in the American Athletic Conference with a very successful season under head coach Ken Niumatalolo, in his eighth season at the helm. They had previously been one of the country’s few remaining independent teams, along with Army, Notre Dame, and BYU, but joined the AAC in 2015 as a one-sport member.

They finished the year 11-2, with their only two losses coming on the road against ranked opponents Notre Dame and Houston. They took down both Air Force and Army to secure their 19th Commandar-in-Chief Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the triangular series between each military academy.

They finished second in the West Division of the AAC conference at 7-1. The loss to Houston in the regular season kept them out of the AAC title game. 

In the postseason, they were invited to the 2015 Military Bowl, where they beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 44-28. Congratulations to the Navy Midshipmen on an outstanding 2015 football season!

Notable Bowl History:

Navy’s first appearance in a postseason game was the 1919 Rose Bowl. However, due to World War I, the game was played with replacement players from Naval Station Great Lakes, so it’s not recognized as an official college football game.

Notable players in Navy’s history include 1960 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino, who led the Midshipmen at halfback to an appearance in the Orange Bowl against Missouri. However, Bellino was held to just 4 rushing yards and the Midshipmen lost 14-21.

Quarterback Roger Staubach was the next Heisman Trophy winner at Navy during an undefeated regular season in 1963. The Cotton Bowl Classic pitted the Midshipmen against the undefeated Texas Longhorns. It was only the second time in history that a bowl game featured the top two teams in the country. In similar fashion to Bellino, Staubach’s Navy team fell to Texas 6-28.

In the 1996 Aloha Bowl vs. California, both teams combined for an NCAA record 68 points in the first half. Navy held Cal to only one field goal in the second half to pull ahead for a 42-38 win.

In 2009, Ricky Dobbs broke Tim Tebow’s NCAA record for single-season rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 27. This time, Navy played against Missouri in the Texas Bowl, and Dobbs did not disappoint. He rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns, passing for a fourth en route to a 35-13 victory.


The Rundown:

  • Colors: USMA black and USMA gold
  • Mascots: the Black Knight and the Army Mules
  • Bowl record: 3-2
  • Most bowl appearances: 5 different bowls
  • Largest bowl game attendance: 1984 Cherry Bowl (70,336)
  • First appearance: 1984 Cherry Bowl (W 10-6 vs. Michigan State Spartans)
  • Most recent appearance: 2010 Armed Forces Bowl (W 16-14 vs. SMU Mustangs)

The 2015 Season:

Fans of the Black Knights would probably prefer to forget about 2015. There weren’t many highlights on the way to a 2-10 record. They lost to Air Force 3-20 in November and, despite a spirited effort, fell to #22 Navy 17-21 in the 116th meeting between the two teams. Third-year head coach Jeff Monken has his work cut out for him to turn it around in 2016.

Notable Bowl History:

Army claims the National Championships for 1944, 1945, and 1946. Those three years, the Black Knights were coached by Earl Blaik with a combined record of 27-0-1, yet they never played in bowl games due to World War II. For all intents and purposes, the Army-Navy game was each team’s bowl for those three years.

Some notable players include three Heisman winners – Doc Blanchard (1945), Glenn Davis (1946), and Pete Dawkins (1958). None of them ever got to play in a bowl game, despite Army being a top team each year.

NFL Hall-of-Fame coaches Vince Lombardi and Bill Parcells served as assistant coaches early on in their careers

Along with only Notre Dame and BYU, Army is one of the three independent teams in FBS that do not belong to a conference.


The Rundown:

  • Colors: Blue and silver
  • Mascot: the Bird
  • Bowl record: 11-13-1
  • Most appearances: Armed Forces Bowl (5)
  • Largest attendance: 1959 Cotton Bowl Classic (75,504)
  • First appearance: 1959 Cotton Bowl Classic (T 0-0 vs. TCU Horned Frogs)
  • Most recent appearance: 2015 Armed Forces Bowl (L 36-55 vs. California Golden Bears)

The 2015 Season:

The Falcons had their fair share of both highs and lows in the 2015 season. They finished the regular season at 6-2 in Mountain West Conference play. That was good enough to win the Mountain Division and put them into the MWC Championship Game. In a closely contested matchup, they weren’t able to overcome a late field goal and fell to San Diego State 24-27.

They were invited to the Armed Forces Bowl, which took place on December 29 – their fifth appearance in the bowl since its inception in 2003. They ran into a tough matchup with a high-powered Cal team ranked 11th in the country in total offense and lost 36-55.

2016 will be head coach Troy Calhoun’s tenth season, as the Falcons look to reclaim the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy from Navy.

Notable Bowl History:

Dee Dowis is generally regarded as one of the best option quarterbacks in history, finishing his career with 3,612 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns. He’s the only Falcon to ever be selected as a Heisman Trophy finalist, although he finished sixth in voting. He was 0-2 in bowl games during his career.

Chance Harridge held the NCAA Division I record for most single-season rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, with 23, until it was broken by Tim Tebow in 2007, and then later by Navy’s Ricky Dobbs in 2009. He made it to one bowl game in his career: a 13-20 loss to Virginia Tech in the 2002 San Francisco Bowl.


Lastly, here are some facts and figures about the college football rivalry between the three schools. The trophy goes to the winner of the triangular series each season:

  • Originated in 1972
  • Air Force: won 19 times
  • Navy: won 15 times
  • Army: won 6 times
  • Shared: 4 times
  • 2015 winner: Navy
  • Air Force is historically the most dominant
    • Record vs. Army: 35-14-1 (won this past season)
    • Record vs. Navy: 28-20 (lost this past season)


Jake Butler

About the author: Jake Butler

Jake Butler is a staff writer at Pioneer Services who understands the challenges facing modern military families. He writes informative and entertaining pieces about military life, financial education and everything in between. Follow Jake on Google+.

Contact: Jake Butler


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