Well friends, that was an extremely frustrating game. I honestly wasn’t going to write anything this morning, I was going to let my little take from Twitter last night carry the load and let that be the end of it. But y’know, I really didn’t sleep very well last night, and writing is how I sometimes deal with these things, and so here we are.
We said before the game that this particular match-up was reminiscent of the 2018 match-up in many ways, and at the half, that is exactly how I felt. Rob Robinson and I discussed it at length. I’d re-watched the 2018 team game on Friday, and what I saw was a dominant Army Team in the first half that nevertheless missed a few critical passes that might have put the game away early. So Navy hung around. The Mids then came charging back in the second half, but in 2018, they self-destructed, first with interceptions then with a crucial fumble in the red zone. This year, alas, the Mids played clean power football with almost no fancy stuff, and boy, the difference was literally overwhelming.
It’s a football aphorism that you should never let yourself get too high or too low, that you want to try to play on an even keel as best you can. Added to that, Coach Jeff Monken always says that he just wants to control what he can control, and that, too, is a really good piece of advice.
Not that I took it. I personally let myself get sucked entirely into the emotions of the moment, so that when that moment dropped out from under me, I hit bottom pretty hard. I know Jordan felt the same because let’s be honest, the AFF official Twitter account got to be kind of a tough read as the waning moments of the game struck home. In the end, we — like you — were spectators in a game that we cared too much about but over which we had no control whatsoever.
It’s frustrating, and overall, the experience left me feeling really foolish within myself for buying in that completely. I never really let anyone or anything affect me like that, and yet here we are. More than anything, I am dead tired of people losing on my behalf, a thing that never occurs anywhere outside of the context of Army Sports.
And yet, what can we do? Are we gonna suddenly stop being Army sports fans? Alumni? Letter-winners and former Black Knights?
We are all locked in here together, friends, world without end and Beat Navy!
This game reminded me of the kinds of games Army was losing towards the end of the streak. These were games where Army — almost — made the plays that they needed to make to win, but ultimately, they just couldn’t quite hang for four full quarters. That is what it looked like last night. Which is why every Navy fan feels vindicated this morning. Because Army did what they’ve traditionally done since 2002. If you’re a Navy fan, it must feel like the world tilted back onto its axis.
Certainly, it didn’t feel like a Monken-coached team took the field last night. Army threw 16 passes against just 33 running plays. That’s so out of character that it’s actually hard to believe on its face. By comparison, Army fullbacks had a grand total of *8* carries.
When I said that Army played like Navy, this is what I meant. Typically, Army runs the Fullback Dive about 40% of its offensive snaps where Navy, prior to former OC Ivin Jasper’s demotion, ran it 20% or less. Often much less. But Navy has recommitted to the fullback since Jasper got sacked, with the result that they ran the fullback on almost 30% of last night’s snaps with Quarterback Power going off tackle for another 38%. Meanwhile, they threw just 6 passes against a season average of almost 11.
If that mix sounds familiar, it’s because that’s been Army’s bread-and-butter since 2016. Last night, though, that ain’t what happened. Army ran their quarterbacks a decent amount, and they broke one long run for a touchdown, but they also missed throws on first down at least twice to kill drives before they’d even started, and that kept them behind the chains at exactly the wrong moments, especially in the second half. Navy also sniffed out Army’s Quarterback Zone plays in the second half. The only guy gaining consistently positive yardage in crunch time was FB JaKobi Buchanan, who only got 2 carries when it counted even though he broke both for big gains.
As I said last night, I need a break. It’s clearly time to hit the ski slopes and leave some of this in the rearview. I love all of you, and I had a Hell of a lot of fun at the AFF Tailgate. Let’s hang together in the face of adversity and disappointment. I still believe in this staff and — more importantly — in the culture of togetherness that is the West Point community.
That was a tough day, but now it’s over. Let’s turn the page.
Go Army! Beat Mizzou!!!
*Cover image via @ArmyWP_Football.
P.S. I know we’ve picked up some Navy fans over the course of this particular week. We’d like to keep you. Not because we like you, necessarily, but because our sponsors like you. They sell Uniform Flags and veteran-friendly mortgages, and those things are as good for goats as they are for mules.
I’m not sure what our coverage of Navy Football might look like next year, but I’m open to suggestions. I’ll leave it at that.