In Connecticut, Army Sees A Positive Example

Army just lost one of its two service-academy games. The Black Knights won't have a winning season. They've finished two-thirds of their journey through the season and have only two wins to show for their efforts. They have every reason to be down. What should they do? They should follow the example of the team they'll face this Saturday at Yankee Stadium.


THE CAN-DO SPIRIT OF UCONN: A LESSON FOR ARMY

The Connecticut Huskies were immersed in a thoroughly miserable season. They hadn’t scored more than 21 points in any game. Their only win had come against an FCS team (Stony Brook, week two). Against the two toughest teams on their schedule to date, they had played well for three quarters but then ran out of steam in scoreless fourth quarters. The Huskies played Boise State and East Carolina on relatively even terms through 45 minutes but couldn’t run the entirety of the race. UConn faced persistent issues on offense, encountering occasional bursts of hope but ultimately failing to sustain a performance through 60 full minutes.

These details aren’t identical to the twists and turns of Army’s season, but they’re very close. The exact similarity between the Huskies and Black Knights, of course, is this: Both teams are led by first-year coaches this season, Bob Diaco for Connecticut and Jeff Monken for West Point. Army can look across the way on Saturday and see a team that has endured many and profound struggles.

Here’s the punch line, though: UConn, after all the frustrations and false starts; after the fourth-quarter failures and largely impotent Saturday afternoons; after ample effort but discouraging results, could have continued to lament its fate. The Huskies could have lost faith. They could have gone through the motions, which is always easy to do when life – which is hard for most of us – acquires its most oppressive and burdensome weight.

Instead, the Huskies chose to fight back.

On Oct. 23, Connecticut played East Carolina to a stalemate into the fourth quarter on the road, even as the Pirates held the top position in the so-called “Gang Of Five” for the access bowl slot that is now Marshall’s to lose. Connecticut played a high-profile opponent; gave said opponent a good and vigorous challenge; but walked away with a loss. That was the “roll-the-boulder-up-the-hill-only-to-have-it-roll-back-down” moment for the Huskies. They could have allowed the energy of the season to dissipate after that moment, but they had made improvements against East Carolina, so they chose the champion’s way in a period of sadness: They redoubled their efforts in their next game against yet another team that had an unbeaten record in American Athletic Conference competition.

East Carolina and UCF both entered November without a loss in The American; East Carolina then got taken out by Temple, and UCF was also knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten in the AAC. The team that ambushed the Knights? Connecticut.

What was surprising about the result wasn’t just that the Huskies won; it was how they did the deed. Connecticut busted loose for 37 points after two full months of offensive futility. The Huskies were sitting on a pedestrian 17 points with five minutes left in the third quarter, but instead of getting weaker as the second half wore on (nudge, nudge, Army – that’s been your tendency this season), UConn uncorked a three-touchdown flurry within a span of under seven minutes to build a 37-21 advantage which, with a made extra point, could have become an insurmountable 38-21 (three-score) lead. UCF got a touchdown and a two-point conversion to pull within one score at 37-29, but the Huskies held firm in the final five minutes to win. The result itself; the manner in which it was achieved; and the transformation of an offense from ordinary to above-average all injected fresh life into a program which still sits at 2-6.

It’s all about perspective, is it not? Connecticut is 2-6, just like Army, but the Huskies are hungry and have reason to hope. They must feel great after finally seeing all their work get duly rewarded.

Army can be the same way this Saturday in New York. The Black Knights can shake hands with the Huskies at midfield before kickoff, look their opponents in the eye, and choose to follow the path carved out by the young men from New England who will stand in their way inside the home of the Yankees.

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