Sunday, October 9, 2016

Quick Thoughts: at Duke

That was such a disheartening game.  As the recap said, Army outplayed Duke after falling behind 13-0, but in tough conditions, this wasn't nearly enough.  The offense couldn't sustain drives because they either let Duke's defense get penetration up the middle, or they put the ball on the turf.  I really thought they were going to come out and play sharp football in tough conditions, that Army's superior esprit de corps would should show on a day when no one really wanted to be playing football.  Instead, they lost this game in exactly the same way they lost all those games last season--on turnovers, especially fumbles.

Army gifted Duke seven points right at the start of the first quarter, and given the conditions, that was your ballgame.  Andy Davidson eventually broke off a couple of nice runs, one for a touchdown, but the extra point missed, and with all the sloppy pitches and passes, the rest was ugly.  Army wound up with more yards and more first downs, but it wasn't enough.  Really, I don't think the game was quite as close as the score might make it seem.

This Black Knights team has a terrific rushing defense.  They also got a lot of heat on Duke's quarterback.  You can win some football games with that.  But until they find consistency on offense, that stuff is only ever going to put them in position to disappoint long term.

The aftermath of this game has left me feeling like I need to watch less football.  I clearly let myself believe a little too much in this team after it opened 3-0, and the let-down since has been a bad deal.  Between the Black Knights and the Giants, this football season has suddenly turned into an absolute nightmare.

It reminds me a little of swimming back when I was in high school and having a bad race, winding up throwing towels and hitting my head against a wall because I hadn't developed the maturity I needed as an athlete to channel emotions and compete without losing control.  When I watch Odell Beckham Jr. play for the Giants these days, I feel a lot of sympathy for his emotional struggles.  That was me as a freshman and sophomore in high school.  I swam exactly the way he plays football, either brilliant or terrible and absolutely at war with my own emotions.  Back then, there were days when I channeled lightning, becoming one of the very best young swimmers in the country.  Other days I lost control completely, leaving the people around me scattering to get outside the blast radius.

I let myself get drawn into yesterday's game in exactly the same way, it was a bad mistake.

I need to move on, and so does Army.  After a long series of road games, the Black Knights head back to Michie Stadium next week.  They face a lousy FCS squad from Lafayette, an improved North Texas team that I nevertheless expect them to beat pretty handily, a road trip to Wake Forest, and then a homestand against Air Force.

I expected this team would open at best 3-2, and that's exactly where we are.  I no longer have any expectations.  From what we've seen this season, these guys might channel lightning and play amazing football.  They might also lose to North Texas in their own building.  It's disheartening, but that's where we are.

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