Another Con(n) Job

Army got beaten down by some Conn men on Saturday. But that was only half the story: Army conned its followers with a flat performance one week after the hope-raising Iowa State performance that suggested progress was in the offing.

In a Saturday Night Live skit several years ago, a character says of Oprah Winfrey—when her weight fluctuations were a constant source of gossip and chatter—"She's fat, she's thin, she's fat, she's thin. I mean pick a body and go with it!"

Army Football, it's becoming increasingly clear, needs to pick an emotional personality and go with it. Against Boston College, this team fell apart. Against Baylor, the Black Knights battled. Against Iowa State, the emotions were off the charts. Against Uconn on Saturday, this team was flat as a pancake.

What gives? It's not so much the interceptions and mistakes from Zac Dahman, but the lack of command Dahman has as a presence on the field. Look at his counterpart, Matt Bonislawski—the Huskies' quarterback fired up his teammates when they came out flat to start the second half... and this despite the fact that UConn had a comfortable lead.

"He got in the huddle and got after some guys," said his coach, Randy Edsall. "I saw something. He was shaking his fist, getting after the guys. That's the process you want to see with your quarterback. It's his team.

Is this Zac Dahman's team? Is he willing to take ownership of this offense—emotionally more than anything?

And what about this defense's emotional personality? The Cadets sold out and sacrificed, up and down the line, against Iowa State. They tackled well and did things that don't demand superhuman strength, just technical attention to detail, form and execution. Tackling is the part of football that should never suffer at West Point, because it's all about technique. Getting blown off the ball by opposing lines is one thing; but making a sure tackle is quite another, and the inability of Army to tackle on Saturday against Connecticut has to stand as a troubling head scratcher.

It's another con job. Just listen to defensive back Caleb Campbell after the game:

"I thought we had a good week of practice, so I don't know why we went out there flat today. I didn't think we were that down." Coming from an Army man, that's a distressing quote. You have to be in control of your emotions, learning how to manage yourself in the heat of battle and tend to the details that make the difference between success and failure. (This is why sports can be such a good teacher and preparatory vehicle for real life. These young men, when serving our country, will be so much better for what they're going through right now on the gridiron.)

The outcome of this contest led Bobby Ross to the only possible conclusion available.

"It was a very embarrassing loss," he said. "We didn't feel like we were ready to play, and we have to be ready to play. We're a team that has to play with a lot of fire and a lot of fight. If we do that, we give ourselves a good chance."

That fire and fight simply have to emerge each and every game from every player on both sides of the ball. This is especially true for Dahman as the offensive captain. With a 200 percent emotional investment on each snap, Army can finally pick its personality and go with it. Once this happens, a big "W" will appear on Army's overall record... and these frustrating teases, these shocking con jobs, will no longer loom over the landscape in West Point. Top Stories