The Navy football team already had plenty on its plate at the start of this week, with starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds recovering from a concussion suffered last Saturday in the Midshipmens loss at Western Kentucky.
Then, when the federal government shut down at midnight Tuesday, word started to circulate that Navys game against Air Force today might be postponed.
The shutdown has been felt on campus, as the academys civilian instructors have been furloughed, but many members of the team went to empty classrooms and studied. In some ways, it was all they could do to try to maintain a routine amid a week that was anything but.
I think at the Naval Academy we deal with a lot of obstacles like this, said Matt Aiken, a senior wide receiver and co-captain. Stuffs going to come up here and there, and its something we just have to overcome.
So when Navys coaches and players received word late Wednesday night that the Department of Defense had given the green light for the game to proceed, the feeling wasnt as much elation as relief that the Midshipmen (2-1) would be able to begin defense of the Commander-in-Chiefs Trophy as planned.
The potential postponement was among the many distractions leading up to what Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk has been calling one of the most significant event statements in the history of the academy.
Gladchuk was referring to much more than simply the record attendance expected at sold-out Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, or the $4 million the Naval Academy Athletic Association stands to gain from the game.
The school also is welcoming 200 recruits and their families from around the country and is honoring the 1963 Cotton Bowl team, including Heisman Trophy quarterback Roger Staubach. On top of that, Navy is hosting the academys most generous donors.
The game is still the football game, and theres so much hype to this game and the Army game that theres enough pressure coming from other sources, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. Ill let Chet and the administration talk about the other things, the marketing, and deal with the other things, but our only focus is football.
That meant keeping an eye on Reynolds, who departed last Saturdays 19-7 loss at Western Kentucky shortly before halftime.
The offense sputtered without Reynolds.
Reynolds practiced fully Wednesday, with Niumatalolo proclaiming the second-year starter 100 percent.
As far as Im concerned, Im getting ready to go play Saturday, Reynolds said. Im excited and ready to go because like Coach said, this game pretty much has defined our season for the last couple of years.
Last week, Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts, making the first start of his career, rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-42 loss to Nevada.