Quick Thoughts: Army Splutters Against Morgan State
Army beat Morgan State yesterday by a score of 52-21. The Black Knights put up nearly 500 yards of total offense and over 400 yards rushing, and yet, at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone was satisfied. Head Coach Jeff Monken called the first half of the game the most embarrassing half of football he’d ever coached. Even after it was over, he said, to paraphrase, “A win is a win, and it counts, but I’m not at all happy with how we played.”
My friend James and I met new friends Erik and Mark on the roof of Thayer Hall for the first ever As For Football pre-game tailgate. Erik is a patron and a member of the Firstie Club. He asked if we were going to set something up, so we did. It was a Hell of a lot of fun. It was great to meet those guys, who are brothers and former Army Swimmers.
Erik said at halftime, “Hard times breed hard men. But success breeds weak men because they get used to the good life. That makes them complacent.”
This is where we are with Army Football in 2019.
This year’s Army Football team has more talent than any Army team has had since the 1950s. That’s true in an absolute sense, and it’s true compared to the rest of college football. However, this very talented group hasn’t found any consistency whatsoever. The team has played badly through four games, getting away with it three out of four times because they have a soft schedule and because they have enough talent out on the field to make good even when their performance is at best mediocre.
There’s no reason for this except that they’re just not focused. We’ve seen a million penalties, a million fumbles, a million tiny mistakes. Then something happens, these guys finally turn it on, and suddenly they look like Army again. For a little while, at least. The guys on the field right now have known nothing but success, and it shows. Because it’s hard to sustain success year after year; it’s hard to burn with that passion to change everything when you’re winning. To be willing to burn it all to the ground because you need to win more than you need to breathe.
We can all see it. These guys are just not as good as they could be.
Against Morgan State, Army looked like garbage right up until the Bears knocked QB Jabari Laws right the Hell out of the game. The Bears weren’t scared. They came for blood, and they took some. Only then, with Laws lying broken on the turf, did the Army team finally seemed to catch a spark. That’s when they finally realized that they were in a fight. That’s when they got angry.
Up until that point, the Bears — who’d previously been outscored 109-15 in two games — had been beating Army’s collective asses in every way. That same untalented, undisciplined Morgan State team had forced a sack-fumble, recovered a muffed punt, beaten Army over the top for a long touchdown throw, and run it right down Army’s throat for a 25-yard rushing score. The Black Knights were losing 14-7 in their own building to a winless FCS doormat. It was the first time they’d trailed in regulation all season. And they didn’t seem too upset about it, truth be told, until the Bears put Laws out of the game.
From that point forward, Army outscored their opponents 45-7, looking basically like the team we expected them to be. Up until that hit, though, they played like dog-meat.
This 2019 team is supposed to be a veteran bunch, but they remind me a lot of the 2016 team that finished 8-5. We all remember that season now because Army finished strong, beating Navy and winning a magnificent bowl rematch in overtime against North Texas. In fact, that team was composed almost entirely of yearlings, and they played with maddening inconsistency. They beat Temple and Wake Forest on the road but dropped distinctly winnable games at Buffalo and Duke and at home to North Texas, all in egregious fashion. They qualified for bowl eligibility initially based solely on their Academic Performance Rate (APR). We tend to forget this now, but that team had just five FBS wins heading into the Army-Navy Game.
This 2019 team has exponentially more talent, and they’ll probably get more wins, but they’re maddeningly inconsistent in many of the same ways, and they look headed for the same kinds of egregious losses as well. We already saw one bad loss against what has turned out to be an at-best mediocre Michigan team. The Army team that finished in the Top 25 and had dreams of a New Year’s Day bowl match-up seems a million miles away.
There were good things to take away from yesterday’s game, of course. Army finally rushed for over 400 yards, and they got their fullbacks going. FB Connor Slomka led the team with 18 carries for 110 yards (6.1 yards/carry) and a touchdown. Yearling FB Cade Barnard looked really good in his 8 carries for 62 yards (7.8 yards/carry), including a touchdown. I could stand to see more of him in big spots. Plus, we finally got a look at highly recruited plebe FB Anthony Adkins. Adkins had 8 carries for 28 yards (3.5 yards/carry) and a touchdown. He looked explosive with the ball in his hands. Though QB Christian Anderson went just 1/7 passing, his lone completion was a dime to SB Artice Hobbs that Hobbs took for an 80-yard touchdown. I should probably note that Army’s pass blocking has sucked all season, but that particular throw looked terrific.
Army’s defense had trouble closing with Morgan State QB Deandre Harris, who managed to escape the pocket multiple times and completed throws downfield in several critical spots. Harris went just 15/29 passing (51.7%) for 230 yards and 3 interceptions, but he also threw 2 touchdowns. He converted at least 5 third downs where Army should have had him dead-to-rights, and he and his team went 2/4 on fourth down, which was enough to keep them in the game deep into the third quarter. Morgan State never looked good, exactly, on offense, but Army couldn’t get consistent pressure, and they got beat over the top a couple of times. None of that was good.
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) September 21, 2019
Kept it rolling at Michie Stadium!
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) September 22, 2019
Army’s got a bye week, and then Tulane comes to town. If the best version of these Black Knights shows up on October 5, they can maybe win a close game at home. If the inconsistent bunch that has played most of 2019 hits the field, though, they’re gonna head back to the barracks with a loss.
We’ll know soon enough who these guys want to be.
Past teams would’ve killed to have this opportunity. This current group looks a little too ready to try to take it all in stride.