Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thoughts on the Rutgers Game

I don't know if you saw the game yesterday, but it was hardly Army's best outing of the season.  The game was probably about as close as we had any right to expect, but that doesn't mean that it was particularly close.  Army's defense was substantially over matched by Rutgers' skill position players, and plebe quarterback Chris Carter made his collegiate debut.  Hell, with all the New Jersey fans in the stadium, it barely even felt like a home game.

With Hannah recovering from pneumonia and Emma acting like her typical lazy-sleeper self on a Saturday morning, we didn't get away until around 8:30 yesterday.  I was a little concerned.  Traffic can be a bitch getting onto West Point, but for wahtever reason, it didn't matter yesterday.  They kept the cars moving well despite obviously enhanced security measures.

How was security increased?  Well, for one thing the Academy stationed a Military Police fire team equipped with M-4s on overwatch on the slope from Thayer Hotel overlooking Buffalo Soldier field.  This was a strictly typical show-of-force, though.  The guys were armed and wearing flak vests but not helmets.  I found myself wondering if they had bullets to go with their weapons, or if they were just standing there to make a point of being visible to would-be bad guys.

Regardless, it was regular security guys handling the actual gate, and thankfully, they did a very good job keeping traffic moving.  Despite our late start, we got to Thayer Gate a little before ten, and we were parked on Thayer roof by 10:15.  That's pretty good.

Saw this bumper sticker on a car parked near ours.  I had no idea Rutgers was
this old.  And, in fact, it isn't.  Queen's College was founded in 1766 by the British,
but it didn't become Rutgers, the state college of New Jersey, until 1825.
We grabbed a couple of snacks at the car and then made our way over to Grant Hall for coffee and smoothies for Hannah and Emma.  This was a completely unnecessary stop, truth be told, but I really like hanging out at Grant on game days.  West Point feels like my hometown sometimes, and Grant Hall is like my favorite coffee shop.

At Grant Hall before the game.
On the Plain, walking up to Michie Stadium.
Alas, this is the last picture I will ever take with my #selfiestick.
We lingered at Grant Hall for almost an hour and then walked slowly up to the stadium, getting to the security check at about 11:20.  If traffic security was easy, stadium security was a nightmare.  There was a sea of red Rutgers fans all around us, giving Michie Stadium an unfortunate Jersey-vibe.  I'd brought an open-topped canvas bag to carry my poncho liner, my selfie stick, and my kids' pom-poms, but the asshates manning the gate gave me crap about the bag and then confiscated my telescoping aluminum and plastic self stick.  Clearly it was a danger.  Ugh.  We got to our seats in time for the National Anthem, but I was hopping mad by the time we got there.

Sometimes I hate West Point, even today.

The game itself was a drag, especially in the early going.  As I mentioned, plebe Chris Carter got the start due to injuries to Ahmad Bradshaw and A.J. Schurr, and on top of that, there were so many Rutgers fans that the crowd felt partisan in favor of the Scarlet Knights at times.  I thought Carter played well in his first college start, though.  My classmate Chris and I had been impressed with his play during Army's Summer Scrimmage, and he seemed to run the offense at least as well as either of the other quarterbacks have this season.  Unfortunately, Army just doesn't have the players to compete with physically large college teams like Rutgers.

Michie Stadium is the only college football stadium in America where you'll
see Santa Claus parachute in before a game.

Carter in particular is a little guy.  He's 5'11" or so, and not particularly large for that height.  He throws the ball well, however, and he makes really good decisions in the triple-option.  Better than Bradshaw, certainly.  He doesn't quite have Bradshaw's breakaway speed, but he's got much better quickness and change of direction, and that counts for quite a bit.  I didn't think the O-Line played particularly well, but under Carter, the offense still made plays.  With one noteable exception, the Fullback Dive never really got going, but Carter still got outside the tackles with consistency, even when Rutgers got penetration in the center, and he pitched on time and on target every time.  Every pitch seemed to go for ten yards.  True, he fumbled twice, losing one, and he threw one interception, but that's still better than either Schurr or Bradshaw has done this season, and this was Carter's first college start ever.  

The interception wasn't his fault.  With time running out in the fourth quarter, and Army needing two scores, Carter tried to force one in the End Zone.  If Army hadn't needed to score quickly, that pass doesn't get thrown, and Army rushes for a score.  They were rushing well.  As it was, though, Army's defense hadn't been able to hold against Rutgers much larger skill position players, which left Carter and the offense trying to make something happen.  It was disappointing, but what can you do?  At least they played to win.

The game was better in the second half.  The defense never held up particularly well, but despite the lost fumble that gave Rutgers a 14-0 advantage early, I still think that maybe Chris Carter ought to stay in at quarterback.  

The guy played well enough.  It was Rutgers' offense that gave Army problems yesterday.

A good bit of the crowd left after halftime.  Hannah and Emma liked it
better once they had a little more room to spread out.
I took this shot of the Corps on our way out.  Hannah got cold, so we left with
maybe 4:00 remaining.  I wanted to sing the Alma Mater but not badly enough
to risk a relapse of poor Hannah's pneumonia.
 That was it.  Not really a bad performance by the Army team, but they played a bigger, better team, and they got beat.  Story of the season, really.

Anyway, we hit the car a little ahead of most of the traffic and got home just before five.  That's not too bad.

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