Academy Review: Week Fourteen
PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS… BUT LACKING STOPS:
ARMY'S INSUFFICIENT ISLAND EVENING
Army head coach Rich Ellerson, trying to maintain his hold on the program he leads, pulled out all the stops on Saturday in Honolulu, Hawaii. Trailing 28-14 early in the third quarter against the Warriors, Ellerson ordered an onside kick that was recovered by the Black Knights. The bold move inspired his team and enabled the visitors to score 21 consecutive points. What had been a 28-7 halftime deficit turned into a 28-28 tie, giving Army hope of a fourth win in 2013. Teams that have nothing to lose should indeed pull out all the stops. Ellerson coached the way any man in his position should.
Yet, if a team's defense can't produce enough stops, it doesn't matter how creative or daring the coaching staff might be. This is the reason an 0-11 Hawaii team became a 1-11 team by night's end. Aloha Stadium wasn't a very happy place for the Black Knights on the final night of November, but it was the site of much rejoicing for the homestanding Warriors, who avoided the 0-and-12 bagel that is so difficult for young men to wear on their backs throughout a long offseason.
After Army mounted its 21-point rally, the Black Knights really never came close to stopping Hawaii on its next three possessions. The Warriors produced three touchdowns in very short order. Army trimmed a 42-28 deficit to 42-35 in the midst of this extended sequence, but the third UH touchdown following the 28-28 deadlock is what put the game out of reach, at 49-35. By the time the Black Knights – dogged in their pursuit of the Warriors – added one more score, Army lacked the time and leverage to get a legitimate shot at tying the contest and sending it into overtime. Defensive deficiencies – despite the attainment of three turnovers from Hawaii – were too much for Ellerson's athletes to overcome.
The point is plain on this flight home from the islands: If Army can't improve dramatically on defense on Dec. 14 against Navy, the memory of a trip to Hawaii won't warm the Black Knights' hearts during the coming winter.
As for Air Force, there's not much left to say at the end of a season that briefly came to life in early November but then fizzled at the very end. The Falcons did gain a Commander-in-Chief's Trophy series win over Army, and their offense revived after a midseason slump. However, the final two games of the season offered nothing for this team to love. Following a Nov. 21 loss to UNLV, the Falcons were utterly toothless in the face of an onslaught from the Colorado State Rams. The best thing that can be said for Air Force's season right now, other than the win over Army? It's over. The memory of this year's frustrations must push and challenge every Falcon – coach and player alike – to be much better in 2014.
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