Given the steep nature of the learning curve at work in Army Football, no one is expecting the Cadets, a four-touchdown underdog, to pull off a TCU and shock the world with a straight-up win. But what Army must get out of this game is a more immediate awareness of the need for teamwide toughness, and of the physical price one has to pay, up and down the line, to win football games.
Last season, it took a number of games for this realization to sink in. Against Boston College, Army needs to find that new-age groove and discover the power of "we" with greater totality and urgency. Why? Because the Golden Eagles will test the Cadets the old-fashioned way: with strength and power.
Boston College is not a flashy, sexy team. Tom O'Brien's team wore down BYU last Saturday with grinding power running, a billy-basic passing game, sound special teams, and—most importantly—a relentless defensive front seven that dominated in the trenches, particularly as the game wore on. BC has a bunch of specimens on its front four, particularly Mathias Kiwanuka, a bull-rushing defensive end who will collect a fat paycheck on Sundays beginning next year. Army will get an education in what it means to be tough on Saturday.
Dealing with the raw physicality of the Eagles, particularly on defense, will show the Cadets, to a man, the necessity of being resourceful and resilient at every position. Even more specifically, the challenges posed by BC's defensive front will demand that Army's offensive line be supremely effective and coordinated in executing basic run-blocking and pass-protecting schemes.
Whereas Louisville displayed awesome speed and skill-position potency in last year's Army lid-lifter, the Golden Eagles will simply rear back and try to knock the Cadets' blocks off. The full frontal impact the Black Knights will receive in this contest will expose any chinks in their armor, and the realization of this will hopefully steel Bobby Ross' team much more quickly and effectively than last season.
There's no other way to say it: every man on the Army football team will need to be just that—a man. Boston College will force these players to grow up quickly, and in the end, that's exactly what Coach Ross is hoping for. In year one, the lessons he wanted to instill into his charges took awhile to sink in. This year, an old-fashioned lunch-pail team like the Golden Eagles could be Bobby Ross' best teacher of all. If the learning curve can accelerate, the wins might pile up in 2005... and a storied football program could move forward to an even bigger degree.