Sunday, December 14, 2014

Final Thoughts on Army-Navy

The Army team came up short yesterday, but I feel a lot better about the rivalry than I did at this time last year.  Army went into the game with a better plan, and they kept it close despite the fact Navy has an undoubtedly better team.  It looked like a rivalry game.  For the time being, that's going to have to be enough.

It's not news that Navy is ahead in terms of its program's success.  Army needs to close the gap, but that's not going to be an easy job.  Still, we've seen steady improvement under head coach Jeff Monken, and that's worth a lot.  Army won four games this year, and we were a missed pitch away from beating Wake Forest and a missed field goal away from beating Yale.  This year's Army team showed a resiliency that we've not seen at West Point in quite some time.  That by itself is huge.  It's going to take years of incremental progress to fully close the gap, but I suppose time is something that the academies have, even if the cadets and midshipmen themselves are only passing through.

Other thoughts:

 -- Army's offense is the strength of the team, but it was the defense that kept the game close.  The offense only put three points on the board.  QB AJ Shurr moved the ball a little more effectively in the second half than QB Angel Santiago had, but he also put the ball on the ground at a critical time in the game.  I look forward to seeing Shurr play next year because he clearly has talent, but he has got to embrace discipline with the football if Army is going to have success with him under center.

 -- I'm glad they gave FB Larry Dixon a chance to be in the spotlight during the pre-game show.  He's Army's best player, and I thought he was an incredibly impressive man.  How many standout Division I college fullbacks carry a secret passion for the U.S. Constitution around in their back pockets?

 -- Navy QB Keenan Reynolds really is a terrific player.  Navy has a better team than Army, but Reynolds is in a whole 'nother weight class.  As the guys from CBS said, he was the difference maker on the field, and I agree that he deserves some attention from the Heisman Committee next year.

 -- I'm still shocked by how talented Navy's swimmers have become.  Army Swimming has come a Hell of a long way in two decades, but Navy is just dominant.  That said, Army apparently had a similar level of success with Track and Cross Country from 1993 to 1997, so who knows?  Maybe they've just recruited very successfully and used that success to build a true culture of excellence.

If that's true, it's an amazing accomplishment.  Army has turned its swimming program around without a doubt, but to beat Navy--to end what has become a 24-year losing streak head-to-head--they'll have to reach truly elite status as well.  That is a very tall order at a military academy.

 -- Next year's schedule will be considerably tougher than this year's was.
Via FBSSchedules.Com
To have any hope of success next year, Army will need to start fast.  
  • Fordham is an FCS team, but they are excellent.  
  • The UConn game is an away game next year.  
  • Wake Forest had a down year this season, but they're not perennial doormats.  Army plays at home, but Wake is going through its own rebuilding process.  They'll be a year further along, the same as Army.
  • Army ought to beat Eastern Michigan, but I said the same thing about Kent State this season, and the Army team booted that game badly.  They play at Eastern Michigan, and if Army's going to have any success at all, they need to find a way to win this game.
We need to come out of that stretch of the season at least 3-1.  Because after that it's:
  • Penn State.  Again bowl eligible; quickly rebuilding the strength of the program.
  • Duke.  9-2 this season with some very impressive wins.
  • Bucknell.  Another very talented FCS team.  They went 8-3 this year.
  • Rice.  7-5 this season, including a blow-out win over Army.  Next year's game is at Rice.
We'll be lucky to win one of those games.  After that, we head into the home stretch.
  • Air Force.  The game is at Air Force, and oh by the way, Air Force went 9-3 this season and won the Commander-in-Chief's trophy.  Colorado Springs is a tough place to play on the road.
  • Tulane.  This ought to be a winnable contest.  Tulane went 3-9 this season, and the game itself is at Michie Stadium.
  • Rutgers.  This is the Yankee Stadium game, and it'll be a Hell of a lot tougher challenge than UConn was this year.  Rutgers went 7-5 this season, with wins over Navy, Michigan, Indiana, and Maryland.
  • Navy.  The 116th Army-Navy game will be back in Philly.
Because of the way Army's season is structured, they'll need to start 4-0 to have a legitimate shot at making it to a bowl game--they have to have 6 wins prior to Navy in order to get an invite.  That is a very tall order.  We could very easily see a better Army team on the field without seeing any change at all in the team's overall record.

Football season is over, and with its end, I've reorganized the blog to--hopefully--make some of my writing a little more accessible.  I put links with covers off on the right side of the main page and updated the Books section of the blog to provide a summary of pretty much everything of mine that I think is worth reading. 

It's all free except the link to Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki, and even that is only $2.99.

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