Better Than The Alternatives

Yes, Army's season opener this past Friday night against Morgan State was only one game. Yes, it was a contest against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent. Yet, if one was to render a verdict on the Black Knights after 60 minutes, it would have to be a positive one.


SMALL SAMPLE SIZE? SO WHAT?

Naturally, week one can often be cause for quite a lot of overreactions in the college football world. A strong performance can lead to unwarranted optimism, and a weak performance can create excessive amounts of skepticism. One game, especially against a downmarket opponent such as Morgan State, should not lead to euphoria or anything of the sort. However, if you're going to lean toward a positive perception or a negative perception of Army football after one night at Michie Stadium, the positive would certainly outweigh the negative.

Look at other examples across the country from week one. Texas's offense coughed up three first-half turnovers to New Mexico State. Does this mean the Longhorns are doomed in 2013? Certainly not. Yet, that ragged first-half performance shows that coach Mack Brown's team has a steep hill to climb. Conversely, Oklahoma – despite a mediocre outing from young quarterback Trevor Knight – pitched a shutout against a Louisiana-Monroe offense that was frequently formidable last season. Does shutting out a Sun Belt Conference team mean Oklahoma is on its way to the BCS? No, certainly not. However, you'd have to be more encouraged – not less – if you are a Sooner fan in the wake of that performance by OU's defense. It's just one game, but one game offers more information than a full offseason, does it not?

With all of this in mind, Army clearly improved its stock in week one of the 2013 season. There was much more to relish than regret in this game, pointing to good things ahead for West Point football… if, of course, the Brave Old Army Team can sustain what it established on Friday.

The biggest takeaway from the 28-12 win over the visiting Bears was that Angel Santiago ran the offense crisply and authoritatively from the get-go. When a team executes at a high level on its first few drives, it's obvious that the coaching staff had its players ready to perform. In addition to Army's high degree of polish in the first 20 minutes, what also stands out is that the Black Knights finished drives. Minimizing errors and maximizing point totals offer the surest path to victory on a weekly basis for Army. This team's margin for error is small, and so Army's ability to limit mistakes while taking full advantage of various in-game opportunities forms the core of this team's identity.

Think of things this way: Army might not always succeed in every facet of competition. However, Army has to succeed in areas of utmost importance. Cutting down mistakes and scoring sevens instead of threes are definitely two items at the top of Rich Ellerson's priority list. On Friday, those two priorities were met.

One game is a small sample size, to be sure. Yet, that small sample size provided more reasons for optimism than pessimism. Onward, then, to Muncie, Ind., and the campus of Ball State University this weekend.

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