Sunday, November 20, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army vs. Morgan State

I'm not sure what we were supposed to learn from watching Army smash historically black college Morgan State.  Morgan State is the largest HBCU in the state of Maryland, and it must surely be one of the nation's oldest in that it dates all the way back to 1867.  Important cultural significance notwithstanding, however, MSU is still an FCS program that just finished its season 2-8.  Reality is that this game was never going to be much of a contest.

I was thinking that maybe Army should have scheduled Grambling or Howard if we wanted to put an HBCU on the schedule, but for what it's worth, the Bears actually finished ahead of Howard in the MEAC, so maybe Morgan State was the way to go after all.  The game itself was a decidedly friendly contest, and that's saying something considering how lopsided it was.  However, Morgan State had at least one player who'd played at USMAPS, so maybe there are some ties here of which I was simply not aware.  USMA is itself struggling to come to grips with its own cultural legacy of intolerance--we are even now building and dedicating a barracks to LTG Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who was famously "silenced" at West Point before rising to command the "Red Tails" in World War II and to three-star rank in the Air Force.  I like that the administration put an HBCU on the schedule; you don't see that from a lot of major football programs.  However, I don't like that they did it in the same year they also scheduled FCS Lafayette.

Me and my girls outside the library.
Parachute demonstration.
Morgan State's band played a good game.  With all those tubas,
they were louder than Hell.
But.  Army has lost an FCS game every year for the last several.  Two years ago we lost to Yale.  Last year we dropped the season opener to Fordham and almost lost to Bucknell, too.  Granted, this year's Army team has been better, and if we'd had another FBS school in place of Lafayette, we'd probably be bowl eligible right now.  However, if you're the administration, you probably want to see a little more progress than last year's 2-10 finish before ending the two FCS game tradition.

If you're looking for a takeaway from yesterday's game, this is it.  Army won both of its FCS games this year, and it did so with style.  The Black Knights also played consistently well on the road.  These are both major turning points.  After nearly twenty years of futility, however, the fan base has gotten a little impatient now that the program has started to regain its footing.  Army Football is again moving under it's own power, but where the team has first crawled and then walked, we as fans want to see them run.

Bradshaw keeps early in the first quarter.
Patriotism overload at halftime.  Thankfully, they skipped Lee Greenwood.
I almost blew yesterday's game off.  My kids, and especially my daughter Hannah, really wanted to go, so I agreed to take them, but my first instinct was to skip what I thought would be a forgettable contest and put in a long swim workout instead.  We ended up having a beautiful day out there, and I saw several of my classmates, so I'm glad that Hannah talked me into going.  However, the game itself was still largely forgettable.  The Bears were completely overmatched.  Save for the fact that plebe QB Malik MacGue muffed two punts deep on his own side of the field, I'm not sure that Morgan State would have gotten a snap in plus territory yesterday.

We got in kind of late, but for once traffic getting on post was a complete non-issue.  I thought this might mean that the stadium would be empty, but actually, we had a pretty good crowd.  The Visitor's Section was empty--as in, there was NO ONE there save Morgan State's band--but the stadium itself was at least three-quarters full.

As always, the girls and I parked on Thayer Roof and walked up the hill, getting to Black Knights Alley at about 10:30.  I wanted to introduce my kids,and especially Hannah, to the Benny Havens Band.  That worked out pretty well.  Both kids got pulled out into the show to dance, and we all had a great time.  Even some of the cadets got involved; first time I've ever seen that.

We've got two weeks off, and then we're on to Navy.  For the second year in a row, Navy is the best team on Army's schedule.  I don't think their defense is quite as good as Army's, but their offense--and especially their offensive line--is truly outstanding.  They've been in shoot-outs all season, and they've been winning.  That's not exactly the way that Army wins games.

Hannah really wanted to sing a set with the band.
Hannah's natural element.
Wasn't sure we were gonna get her back.
Even the cadets got into the act. 
The Hellcats!
Emma looked a little shellshocked when she got out there.
The Black Knights are better this season, it's true, and if the offense plays to its best potential, this is indeed a winnable game.  But Army still has a young team and a maddeningly inconsistent one, and that stuff is only going to change with time and increased maturity.  Still, this is the first time in a long time that Army has headed into Army-Navy with a winning record and enough confidence to believe it can find a way to win.  That counts for a lot.

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