It optimizes what college athletics should be and all that is good in America. However the last 8 years have been a blatant embarrassment for Army. They have been outscored 291-74 and have made every type of error imaginable. In some of these games Army has been able to stay competitive into the half, others were lost from the onset. There has never been such a chasm in the accomplishments of these programs for such a prolonged period of time. Navy, behind Paul Johnson, took the Midshipmen to a different sustainable level of play and left Army in the white water of the Hudson. Why will 2010 be any different?
Three Weeks Ago
It was a magnificent stage set at the grandest of sports palaces - Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, NY. The place that has been home to some of the nation's greatest professional athletes - Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Gifford, to name just a few - and the site of some of the greatest moments in American Sports History - Gehrig's speech, Reggie's 3 HR's, the 1958 NFL title game, etc. - opened its doors to our Black Knights and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The buildup was fantastic - excitement pulsated not only through the building, but also through the subway stations leading in to the venue. For all of West Point Nation, this was by far the grandest event our football team had ever been a part of in our lifetime. There was every reason to believe that this game would take its rightful place alongside all the other great moments and events that have taken place in the House that Ruth Built....
And then the game started.
One Army player was interviewed prior to the game and said that this was the team's opportunity to prove that "we can play with anyone..." Instead, what was painfully obvious by about the midway point of the first quarter was that Army did not belong on the same field with Notre Dame. The opportunity was there in a transitional year for Notre Dame and a resurgent year for the Black Knights to advance the program immeasurably with a famous victory in the national spotlight.
Not even close.
With such high expectations and optimism leading up to such a big game, it was bitterly disappointing to see the team lay an egg. Hopefully it won't be another fifty years before we get another chance.
On the Day, Notre Dame racked up 369 yards, 214 in the air. Tommy Reese was 13/20 and had 1 TD throw. Notre Dame showed a lot of class by taking their foot off gas and ran out the fourth quarter. On defense, Notre Dame put 9 players on the line of scrimmage and was very disciplined. They took away Jarred Hassin and essentially dared Army to throw against their man on coverage. Unfortunately, the Notre Dame corners were faster than the Army receivers and Army had no answers. The Cadets had 174 total yards, 134 on the ground. Patrick Mealy led the team with 30 yards. Steelman was 2/7 for 34 yards and 2 interceptions.
At Annapolis, Ricky Dobbs finished his final home game in style; rushing for 154 yards and 3 TDs, while throwing 8/9 for 164 yards and another TD. Navy racked up 465 yards and looked impressive.
What to look for?
This is a game we are looking at like a canteen half full or half empty.
Ridge – Half Full
Navy's weakness is their defense. They are ranked 45th in the NCAA yielding 22.8 points a game. In the games where they have allowed less than 3 touchdowns, they have still given up an average of 340 yards. Army ranks 9th in rushing at 260.3 yards per game. Army should be able to move the ball with their base offense against Navy. Of course, they will need to throw the ball effectively to keep the linebackers out of the backfield. Hassin should be able to gain his 100+ yards and Mealy, Cobbs and Maples should be able to gain the corner for some big plays. The key on offense will be to sustain drives, not turn the ball over and not settle for field goals.
Navy's strength is their offense, they are ranked 5th in rushing with 302 yards per game. Ricky Dobbs has proven to be one of the best academy quarterbacks since Roger Stabauch. He is a good person and a great leader. Army must limit him. Army will use multiple looks and blitz packages to keep him off balance. In return for the risk taking - Army will create turnovers and also give up some big gainers. The difference in the game will probably come from the number of turnovers that they are able to force.
Army will score 31 or more points in this game. Army has a tendency to melt when they make an early mistake. Army must execute early and never let up. They must take chances on both sides of the ball and not settle for field goals. They need to win the turnover battle.
Lom – Half Empty
Navy comes in to this game having won six of its last seven. This streak includes a blowout victory over the same Fighting Irish squad that made the Black Knights look like bush leaguers, and it includes a 76-35 thumping of East Carolina. They have scored at least 28 points in seven straight games, and at least 31 points in five straight. The Middies are hot, and there is no secret how they have done it – by methodically grinding it out on the ground with their triple option attack. They had at least 50 rushing attempts in nine of the eleven games they played this season, and they had at least 60 rushing attempts in five of those games. That tells you they were the masters of time of possession, 3rd and 4th down conversions, and long, morale-killing drives.
When you match that kind of offense against the Black Knights defense, it is difficult to imagine the Army D holding up. During the course of this season we have seen the small Army front seven struggle mightily against the run, and we have seen the entire defense wear down by the 4th quarter in nearly every game. It stands to reason that Navy will run the ball anywhere from 50 to 60 times in this game. If that happens, there is almost no way that this Army team, which has come up very small in the biggest games it has played in this year, can win.
Who is favored?
Navy is favored by 7 points
Final Score –
Ridge - Army 35 – Navy 31 (predictions 2010, 5-6)
Lom – Navy 41 – Army 17
Game will be shown on CBS @ 2:30PM EST.