I’m still not sure that I know what to say about yesterday’s game. Army hosted the #16 Wake Forest Demon Deacons to one of the wildest shoot-outs I’ve ever personally witnessed. Michie Stadium sold out, giving the game an incredible energy, and even just watching the contest from the stands was one of the most emotional experiences I think I’ve ever endured. The game featured so many wild swings, so many breakaway scoring plays, and just enough hope that I thought the Black Knights would somehow tie it up and force overtime right up until the closing minutes. At the end of the day, the good guys were one phantom pass interference call plus one disastrous fake field goal away. That is a razor-thin margin in a contest that otherwise saw more than 1200 yards of total offense and much more than 100 total points scored by both teams.
It was damned maddening, and I’m still just hopping mad about it.
Final from Michie Stadium. pic.twitter.com/aJOiiqZOki— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) October 23, 2021
"It could've been worse. Imagine giving up all those points and only scoring 14. That's how Houston fans felt."— Disconcerting Signals (@mack270) October 24, 2021
If I have one negative about the gameday experience overall, it was that traffic getting on and off post was God awful. I got to Thayer Gate at 8:30 am. Cars were already backed up over a mile. A good number of people bought tickets to this one on a lark — which is good! — Googled, “How do I get to West Point?”, and wound up in line to Thayer Gate with neither a parking pass nor any actual idea where they were going. This was not a shocking development, but for whatever reason, it seemed to catch West Point off-guard. No one checked my ID, either at the gate or at the little guard shack just past the Thayer Hotel, but we were still backed up over a mile — super early — solely because many, many of the cars ahead of me had gotten in the wrong lane and then had to scramble around the cones once they got near Buffalo Soldier Field. It was a mess.
I know this is a tough issue to fix at an otherwise secure facility, but West Point is never going to pack the stands routinely if they can’t come up with something. We have the greatest gameday experience on Earth but the very worst traffic. Overall, I think we’re maybe leaving a little money on the table because of it.
Regardless, I did eventually get up to the lots, and we had a really great tailgate. My classmates Amber and Matt came up from Texas, and they brought their friends Bill and Cheryl, and a bunch more of my classmates, including Bill and my good friend Terry showed up as well. The tailgate rocked, and as always, this particular collection of characters brought out the worst in me in the best way possible.
I love those guys.
You graduate from West Point with 1000 of your closest friends, and you’re immediately scattered to the winds like dandelion petals. After that, the times you’re together are like little snapshots of family scattered amongst the albums of folks who will never quite understand you. Those times are all rare and increasingly precious.
How many drinks does it take to make the Michie stairs seems steep?— Danno E. Cabeza (@DannoECabeza) October 23, 2021
Less than six.
We wound up stumbling towards the stadium at around 11:30, at which point I felt just drunk enough and just belligerent enough that I immediately bought into the emotions of the game wholesale and without reservation. By the end, I really wanted to see some legitimate violence. I wanted to see Wake QB Sam Hartman go down Joe Theisman-style, and I’d hazed the poor side judge so badly from the stands that I could see him visibly shaking on the sideline. In my defense, Wake knocked out two of Army’s quarterbacks, one on a ludicrously vicious Targeting shot that drew an ejection, while those referees put on the very worst officiating performance I’d ever seen. It’s good that Hartman somehow escaped the Good Lord’s vengeance, but I could stand to see that pack of ref’s do something else with their lives. Those dudes probably don’t need to get asked back to Michie Stadium.
A true shootout is always going to be a close contest, but in a game like this, there’s just not any margin for error at all. Army played man-coverage on the outside most of the game to slow down Wake’s read-option rushing attack and to try to get some pressure on Hartman. However, the Black Knights’ secondary absolutely could not cover Wake’s receivers man-to-man down the field, and when they switched to zone late in the game, Wake started running all over them. That offense is just really, really good. But Army got one stop on a 4th-and-1, and they got one stop on a 3rd-and-16 when LB Arik Smith turned for the ball, boxed out the receiver, and the ball fell harmlessly to the turf some 15 yards away. To be clear, Smith is entitled to play the ball, and he’s also entitled to his own space, especially when he’s looking for the ball. Nowhere in the rulebook does it say that he’s supposed to let a receiver run over and/or through him. The play was called Pass Interference, but it wasn’t; the difference being that Smith turned for the ball and tried to play it.
With the penalty, Wake got the ball and the eventual touchdown. Both of Army’s stops occurred in the first half, so despite the fact that both teams scored relentlessly down the stretch, this one PI call was arguably the difference in the game.
That was hardly the only officiating mistake of the day, it was but by far the most costly.
So yeah. I got mad, and I yelled at that ref. I know he heard me, too, but he needed to be better. We all saw them screwing up, and I’m pretty sure that they knew they’d blown it as well. I mean, I don’t know if Army was ever going to win this particular contest, but they certainly weren’t going to win it with #16 Wake Forest getting breaks from ACC ref’s.
Btw— Cons (@CaptainCons) October 24, 2021
I’m not a blame the refs guy ever. Especially when the difference is multiple TDs
But my word the refs in the Army game were something. 6 times they changed a call after a coach yelled at them. Atrocious
And yet, the Black Knights fought their asses off yesterday. They didn’t hold back or leave any tricks unplayed. They put up 595 yards of total offense and a whopping 31 first downs in a losing effort that took them all the way down to their 3rd string quarterback. That is actually amazing. The Army Team rushed for fully 416 yards on 5.9 yards/carry and converted 9/16 3rd downs plus 3/4 4th downs. They were relentless and unstoppable. They even went 10/13 passing for 179 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 costly interception on that fake field goal. I didn’t mind the call, and Army for sure had to go for it, and they even got their receiver open, too. Alas, the pass came off a little too late and a good bit too high.
And that was the margin of this game. Two plays or maybe three.
No forgiveness, no surrender. Let’s don’t get mad. Let’s just get even.
this game has unlocked the unlimited touchdown cheat code pic.twitter.com/Y29xMFliy4— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 23, 2021
Next Up: Beat Air Force!
All three service academies played ranked teams yesterday, and all three lost. Air Force and Navy are both claiming moral victories this morning.
Army, I think, wants to kill somebody.
Well folks, we’re going to war in Texas. I know a bunch of my friends hate that particular analogy, and it’s true that football isn’t war. However, this next contest is very likely to be a violent and unruly fist fight, and honestly, after yesterday, I’m here for it. I don’t know if the Black Knights will beat Air Force, but at the very least, they’ll be competing against guys in their own weight class again, so their heart and determination will show up a little more decisively on the field.
Let’s thump those sorry bastards.
Go Army! Beat Air Force!!!
*Cover image via @ArmyWP_Football. Great shot, guys!