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Barbs fly as Navy, Air Force face off

Other than an occasional covert mascot-napping, the rivalry among the nation's military academies is as genial as it is spirited. Separated by uniform, united by a higher mission.

So it has been fascinating to see the sparks fly this week between Annapolis and Colorado Springs.

Navy will visit Air Force tonight (7:45 p.m., ESPN) in the first game of the annual troika to determine ownership of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Considering the ditch Army is trying to dig out of, this game shapes up as winner-take-all.

Navy won the CIC last year for the first time since 1981, ending Air Force's six-year reign. And the flyboys are still bitter.

"It's almost like they're holding our stuff," fullback Adam Cole told the Gazette of Colorado Springs. "It doesn't really belong to them."

At Air Force, the case where the trophy used to reside remains empty except for a photo of Navy's players polishing the hardware. Sunday, the Falcons' lockers were decorated with slick "Eckel for Heisman" placards.

Fullback Kyle Eckel did steamroll Air Force's defense for 176 yards in last year's 28-25 triumph. Navy, though, isn't doing any Heisman promotion.

"He can make up whatever he wants," Navy coach Paul Johnson disdainfully told reporters, never mentioning Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry by name.

These Midshipmen are new to being top guns. Navy is 4-0 for the first time in 25 years, a distinction that earned national "Team of the Week" honors from the Orange Bowl and Football Writers Association of America.

The Falcons, though, don't seem all that impressed. As far as civility, Johnson said he wasn't surprised by some of the barbs coming from the wild blue yonder. Then he couldn't help taking his own shot.

"Air Force probably thinks they're better than Miami," he said.

COLORADO: A judge set a May 31 trial date for a lawsuit against the university that touched off a scandal over allegations that sex, drugs and alcohol were used to lure recruits.

The federal suit was filed by former student Lisa Simpson, who said she was raped by players or recruits at an off-campus party in 2001. The suit has been consolidated with one filed by another woman with similar claims.

NORTH TEXAS: Running back Patrick Cobbs, the NCAA's leading rusher and scorer last season, will sit out the rest of this season because of a knee injury. He ran for a school-record 1,680 yards and 19 touchdowns last season with four 200-yard games.

TENNESSEE: Senior tight end Victor McClure has been reinstated after being suspended since August following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, coach Phillip Fulmer said.

McClure was slated to be a starter until he was involved in two incidents over the summer. He also missed part of preseason practice with a shoulder injury.

An argument between McClure and his girlfriend in August drew police. She told them McClure broke out her apartment windows and pushed her into a wall before taking a piece of glass and cutting his wrist. She had a cut lip but refused medical care and to press charges.

Earlier this summer, McClure was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after a bizarre incident at the school's student recreation building that also involved his girlfriend. Police said he shoved a professor, tried to pull another woman down the stairs and ran around the lobby while throwing his shorts in the air.

At the time, Fulmer blamed an undisclosed "medical condition" for McClure's outburst.

"His medical issues have been addressed by a team of doctors and his medication and counseling will continue," Fulmer said Wednesday. "Everyone in the process felt that a return to normal activity, including football, would be a plus for him."

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