Victor Ugenyi had just completed talking about how focused Army must be to defeat Navy in its annual rivalry game next week, when a huge smile broke across his face.
Ugenyi, the Cadets' senior defensive tackle and cocaptain, and his teammates know what a Dec. 12 victory at Lincoln Financial Field would mean - the end to Army's seven-game losing streak against the Midshipmen, and the Cadets' first bowl bid since 1996.
Ugenyi's smile evolved into a booming laugh.
"It would mean the world," he said yesterday. "It would be indescribable. . . . Honestly, after we win this game, I don't know what I'm going to do. I might just sit on the field and stare at the sky for a while."
In this 110th matchup of the service academies, the Cadets (5-6) need a win to become eligible for the Dec. 29 EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington.
With two substantial incentives on the line for Army, first-year head coach Rich Ellerson must keep his team's concentration on the basics - execution, tackling, avoiding turnovers, winning the kicking game - and away from everything else.
"We know there's a lot of stuff on the table in this game," Ellerson said. "It's great for our senior class to have played just well enough to get us to this moment. Now, just put it on the shelf and play football."
The Cadets have been off since Nov. 21, when they defeated North Texas. Ugenyi said Ellerson helped by switching things around in practice, "taking your mind off of what this game means and focus on what you're doing right now."
"I guess it's more of a lighthearted approach, not thinking about the game but enjoying our time with one another in the locker room and off the field," he said. "North Texas was the same way - we had to win that game to stay bowl-eligible. We went into that game focused but relaxed and ready to win, and we did."
Navy (8-4), already assured of a trip to the Texas Bowl in Houston on Dec. 31, lost Saturday at Hawaii, 24-17. The Mids have won 14 straight games over the Cadets and Air Force dating back to 2002.
Like every senior class at Army, Ugenyi wants to be part of the one that defeats Navy. But the Atlanta native, who aspires to be a doctor, knows a win means so much more.
"All of our seniors came here with the mantra that we were going to turn Army football around, make it a winning program again," he said. "After we beat Navy and after we win this bowl game, we haven't done it completely, but we've turned it in the right direction."
Limited tickets available. For the first time, officials are offering two premium packages for the Army-Navy game that include parking, tailgate privileges, and seats either on the club level at the Linc or the 50-yard line.
"Traditionally, we haven't really taken advantage of a kind of hospitality package, but it's a specialized thing we created," said Larry Needle, executive director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress. "We have worked closely with the Eagles to pull that together, and I think it's been selling well."
Needle said just a handful of premium ticket packages remained at $275 and $350 each. He said the only other tickets available for the game were standing room at $45 apiece.
Ticket information can be found on the city's Web site for the game, phillylovesarmynavy.com.