It was ONE game

The stage was set for the renewal of a once great rivalry in historic Yankee Stadium in prime time. Army entered the game with its first winning record this late in the season in fourteen years. The Black Knights offense had just put up 45 points and 382 yards of offense against the top ranked rushing defense in the nation.

While it didn't carry the importance of the 1945 game of the century when both teams were national powers, it was a sellout of a game with the highest priced tickets of any college regular season scheduled this year. With a half hour pre-game, a national showcase, a rebuilding Notre Dame team that had been blasted by rival academy Navy the stage was set to tell the world Army football was back. After watching tape of Army's impressive road win over Kent State and the replay of the Navy game where the Mids ran wild against the Irish, I predicted an Army upset win.

Instead the Black Knights produced their worse offensive game of the year as they were befuddled and dominated by Notre Dame's 4-4 wishbone defense in losing 27-3. The recriminations from long suffering Army fans came fast and furious. The team lacked passion, wasn't prepared, was outclassed, out coached, the coaches were too conservative, Ellerson "looked lost" on sidelines etc. Like most fans, while stating I was disappointed in the results I felt the criticism at times was over the top.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday that just passed Army fans have a lot to be thankful for. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields had a tough game against Notre Dame but has built an offense that has impressed this year and entered the Notre Dame game averaging 31 points per game. The Black Knights have nearly doubled their point production over last year's team. Coach Shields has designed unique option offense that is part veer, half wishbone, a lot spread option and part Wing T and made it the Army offense. The team runs an exciting attack double eagle flex defense that produces negative plays.

I am a big proponent of this coaching staff. In reading Matt Zemak's article, he accused head coach Rich Ellerson of being timid and lacking "intestinal" fortitude. As someone who has interviewed coach Ellerson on techniques, philosophy and fundamentals I can assure Army fans that I have found him to be focused, determined with a mission and the ability to express his goals, plans and strategies in great detail.

Coach Ellerson maintains a more stoic and encouraging, teaching demeanor on the sidelines. He is simply not going to throw his headset while Army fans are throwing their remotes at the TV when Army struggles; it's not his way. On top of that, kicking the field goal on the opening drive was the right play. It was fourth and a long three yards after a 77-yard drive. The smart move was to kick the field goal and take the lead.

In reviewing the Army and the Navy game tape against Notre Dame, the difference between the two service academy programs is still team speed. On two running plays during the first drive Army would have scored a touchdown if their "A" and "C" backs had more speed. It was a reminder of a quote Paul Johnson made early in his tenure at Navy, "We have more guys who turn 50-yard touchdowns into 10-yard gains than any team in the country."

Ellerson has only one full recruiting cycle under his belt and is still playing almost entirely with Bobby Ross and Stan Brock recruits. He is trying to address this but it will take a few more recruiting classes to get there. Army has beaten most of the teams on the schedule that they were expected to handle. The Navy game will be a challenge but it's not impossible if Army brings their "A" game. Navy has a very good football program.

Army fans bemoan the fact the Black Knights have lost eight consecutive games to the Mids. Until their win this year, Air Force, not exactly a struggling program, had lost seven straight to Navy. The Army football program is on its way back under Ellerson's leadership. It's not there yet but there is no reason to get discouraged because of one game. Top Stories