In the end, senior slotback Reggie Campbell was standing on a platform, a baton in his hand, leading the Navy band and smiling, as men and women sang their alma mater after the Midshipmen's 38-3 victory yesterday over Army.
It was the most fitting place Campbell could have been. After all, he had led the band all day long on the football field, playing a major role in Navy's unprecedented sixth straight victory over its archrival before an announced 70,610 at M&T Bank Stadium.
The win also clinched the Commander in Chief's Trophy for Navy for the fifth straight year.
"I didn't know what I was doing," Campbell said of his conducting effort. "To stand up in front of my peers and lead Blue and Gold, that's a pretty big deal. ... But I don't think they were paying attention to me."
The band? Maybe not.
But everyone else on hand yesterday had no choice but to pay attention to him in the 108th Army-Navy game.
While Navy's defense played its best game of the season, Campbell capped his already impressive career with 227 all-purpose yards, a school-record-setting 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 46-yard punt return that enabled teammate Joey Bullen to kick a 51-yard field goal.
The field goal, which hit the crossbar and bounced through, came on the final play of the first half and gave Navy a 24-3 lead.
"Let me say how proud I am of this football team," said Navy coach Paul Johnson, whose team will take an 8-4 record into the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20 in San Diego. "They have accomplished something that hasn't been done before in the Army-Navy series, and that's win six games in a row.
"We had our best game of the year on defense, and special teams played really well, too. Our offense couldn't put more than two plays together in the first half ... but 38 is more than three."
Navy's offensive performance was much like that of last year against Army, when the Mids put together one strong offensive drive and then benefited from its defense scoring nine fourth-quarter points.
"It was the same kind of game," said senior slotback Zerb Singleton, who scored Navy's first touchdown. "When we watched films of last year's game, it looked like we didn't play as hard as we could. I don't know that that was the case here. Army was playing hard."
Army coach Stan Brock said his defense played well enough to win. The Black Knights (3-9) forced Navy to punt a season-high six times, held the Mids to 287 rushing yards - more than 50 yards below their average - and to a season-low 7 passing yards.
"But Navy outplayed us and out-hustled us," Brock said. "They came away with plays, and we didn't make plays. I'm disappointed for the seniors and the Corps of Cadets that we didn't give them an opportunity to beat Navy."
Army was hurt by two fumbles, including one at the Navy 1-yard line that stopped a third-quarter drive. Earlier, linebacker Irv Spencer recovered an Army fumble at the Black Knights' 6-yard line, leading to a 1-yard touchdown by Shun White for a 21-3 lead.
Navy started another drive inside the Army 10-yard line after a blocked punt in the fourth quarter, and Jarod Bryant scored on a 1-yard run two plays later.
"We couldn't have hoped for a better finish," said sophomore linebacker Ross Pospisil, who registered seven tackles and recovered the fumble at the 1-yard line. "We've definitely had our ups and downs and ridden the roller coaster. I was just so thankful we could come out here and hold them to only three points. It was just an amazing day."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times