Academy Review: Week Eight
KICKING THEMSELVES: A LOST WEEKEND IN PENNSYLVANIA AND OHIO
Army and Navy suffered very different kinds of losses this past weekend, but the pain of each result is substantial. Army got its tail kicked by Temple, while Navy lost a one-point, double-overtime heartbreaker to Toledo. Army's offense didn't show up. Navy's offense flourished. Yet, at the end of these road trips, the "L" column grew by one. As a result, Army's bowl chances took a massive hit, while Navy is now anything but guaranteed a postseason ticket.
First, one cannot fully express how disappointing this weekend was for Army in Philadelphia. The Black Knights had everything set up for them in terms of a bowl appearance. With Air Force, Western Kentucky, and Hawaii all laboring this season, Army would have enjoyed better than even odds of making a bowl game had it been able to dispose of the winless Owls and move to 4-4. Winning two of those games against the three opponents mentioned above still represents a very realistic goal for Army.
The problem with the loss to Temple is that Army must now win all three of those games in order to feel good about its bowl chances. Yes, Navy is the game the Black Knights want more than any other – there's no need to say anything more on that score. Yet, when coldly viewed through a narrow analytical lens, Army's best path to a bowl involves notching a sixth win before meeting the Midshipmen on Dec. 14. Coach Rich Ellerson's team regularly needs an appreciable margin for error, and this Temple loss is so damaging precisely because it wipes out that margin.
As for the game itself and its actual flow (or lack thereof), here's all you need to know: Army didn't produce a drive with at least four series of downs (in other words, three gained first downs) until it trailed by a 33-0 score midway through the third quarter. Simplified, that statement means that Army didn't sustain a single drive until the game was essentially over. That's a no-show performance in a nutshell.
Navy's effort and execution easily eclipsed Army's outing, but the scoreboard result was the same. In a repeat of the disastrous 2011 season, Navy's kicking game is biting the Midshipmen in the backside. A missed field goal is one thing, but a missed PAT is another, and a missed PAT in overtime is still another. Missing medium-length kicks is never an enjoyable experience, but failing on shorties represents a far more acute failure. The other players on this roster deserve better than what they're getting.
On a more granular level, what's painful about this loss to Toledo is, in many ways, removed from the game itself. Seeing Navy's offense answer the call – scoring 10 points late in regulation to forge a tie while rolling up 44 points in overtime – only makes the loss to Duke that much more frustrating. Navy left a lot of points on the field against the Blue Devils. This superb offensive effort in the state of Ohio only magnifies the Midshipmen's deficiencies the week before.
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