Minding Your Own Business

Army football needs to put mind over matter. It's as simple as that after a very disappointing 2005 season-opener against Boston College.

No one expected the Cadets to win, or even make the Eagles really and truly sweat bullets in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. But with that having been said, the Black Knights of the Hudson—after their masterful 12-play, 80-yard, 7-minute, 10-second touchdown drive on their very first live series of the season—should have made their opponent work harder for a victory. Everyone in Chestnut Hill knew Army's toughness would be challenged, and that the stronger home team would eventually exert itself and take control.

But this was too easy. No bunch of Army men should ever fold the tent as quickly as Bobby Ross' team did on Saturday against BC. Not after the learning experiences of last season. Not after another summer spent polishing skills and developing more sound football instincts to sharpen the boys for another string of gridiron battles.

It wasn't that Army lost this battle physically; it was that the Cadets lost this battle mentally.

Think about it: what happened on the first scrimmage play for BC after Army's awesome touchdown drive on the first possession of the year? A 36-yard pass from Eagle quarterback Quinton Porter to receiver Jason Lilly. That play set the tone for what followed: easy scores by the Eagles, and easy relinquishments of the ball by Army. It wasn't that the Cadets got stopped; it was that they put up so little legitimate resistance.

With the score 21-7 BC early in the second quarter, the two defining plays of the game took place in back-to-back fashion. They typified the lack of fight Army displayed in this contest.

The first play was Army receiver Jacob Murphy fumbling on a solid hit. Not a bone-crushing, spine-rattling hit, but a very solid hit, delivered forcefully and properly by a BC cornerback. It had significant impact, but it wasn't a highlight-reel hit that makes you slack-jawed with amazement. Any competent, mentally tough football player holds onto the ball after a hit like that. Murphy flat wilted; there's no other way to say it. It was a lack of mental toughness, nothing less.

Then, on the next play—with BC now in possession of the ball—Army's defense witnessed (and "witnessed" is an all-too-accurate word for what happened on this play) Eagle receiver Will Blackmon juke and run past all eleven of its members en route to a 41-yard touchdown. It's sad but undeniably true: all eleven Army defenders either missed a tackle (by a mile) or severely overran their gaps and angles, as an opposing ballcarrier made them look very silly on a national ESPN Classic cable broadcast.

Suddenly, what had been a 7-0 Black Knight lead with 7:51 left in quarter number one became a 28-7 deficit with 11:28 left in quarter number two. In just 11 minutes and 23 seconds of clock time, Army went from being competitive to being a thoroughly beaten team.

The point, though, is not that Army lost by a big spread. That was entirely possible.

The point is that Army, after showing excellence early on, caved in and allowed BC to coast to victory instead of making the Eagles really earn their comeback. If BC rolled to a large win by dint of consistent, grinding effort, this game wouldn't taste so bad for Bobby Ross and his coaching staff. But there has to be concern over the fact that in less than 12 minutes of clock time, Army gave way so quickly, and so early in a football game. This sport demands resilience, mental toughness, and the ability to put up a good fight. Forget the Xs and Os; if Army can't learn to fight harder, this season won't see the progress many people expected.

Army's Jeremy Trimble scores a touchdown against Boston College's DeJuan Tribble, bottom, during the first quarter Saturday, Sept. 10, 2005, in Boston. Boston College won 44-7. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)

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