Keeping Up Without the Joneses

As the Army Black Knights enjoy a much-deserved off week for the Thanksgiving holiday, and as the West Point program expresses its gratitude to Bobby Ross, there shouldn't be any glum faces around the dinner table on Thursday.

What is true of gridiron gladiators and real-life soldiers is no different for anyone else in any other life situation: you give of your best every day, doing what you can and pushing your limits. All year long but especially last Saturday, the Cadets simply spilled their guts all over the field. The fact that it wasn't enough against Alabama-Birmingham should not obscure the even more important reality that Army is giving maximum effort every game. No one expected Bobby Ross' team to beat most of its 2004 opponents, even while maxing out; the mere fact that Army is pouring out its collective football soul, then, is a highly encouraging and extremely comforting reality for the future of West Point football.

The Black Knights are trying to keep up with the Joneses in college football, with UAB, a bowl-bound team, serving as a perfect example. And given the circumstances, Army did just that. Coordinator John Mumford's defense kept Blazer quarterback Darrell Hackney in check last Saturday, as the Black Knights allowed only one sustained touchdown drive; UAB's other TD came as a result of a crippling—and very untimely—kickoff return after the home team gained a 7-3 lead late in the first half at Michie Stadium. All in all, the defense did its job.

As for the offense, well, it's really hard to keep up with the Joneses if you lose your own Jones. When workhorse running back Carlton Jones got injured in the second half, Army's offensive balance—and much of its scoring punch—left the building. So the fact that the Cadets couldn't get off the deck is not a reflection of their effort or even their execution. The Black Knights of the Hudson River were up a creek without a paddle, given the bad hand they were dealt. That the game didn't get out of hand is a tribute to the work ethic and perseverance of players who didn't get rewarded on the scoreboard, but who have every reason to hang their heads high—this Thanksgiving and in the off-season.

But oh, before the offseason begins and the preparation for 2005 begins, there's this little matter of a game against Navy.

With two weeks to rest and heal up for the game, the smart money is that this hard-working team will empty its tank one last time in 2004. After seeing the Cadets bust their butts against UAB, a noble fight against Navy—in contrast to the out-of-control blowouts of the past two years—would be very much in character for a team that just won't quit.


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