The new Army Black Knights

"We didn't finish. We're underachieving right now. This is terrible." Such a quote emerged from the locker room after a football game involving the Army Black Knights this past Saturday in Waco, Texas. The beautiful part for Bobby Ross and the rest of a truly transformed program is that the quote came from the opposing camp.

Yes, in past years, one would have expected an Army player to talk about an inability to finish. You would have understood if a Black Knight had lamented another close loss. You wouldn't have been surprised if a West Point football man was expressing the pain of defeat in the minutes after another stomach-punch setback. But now, things are different for Army football.

The Brave Old Army Team--once so frail in the fourth quarter--is now displaying the level of perseverance that defines winning (yes, you heard that right... winning!) college football programs. The Black Knights of the Hudson are showing so much gumption and resolve in crunch time that their opponents are now the ones muttering to themselves about missed opportunities and inexcusable losses. The Baylor Bear team that beat Army last season in Michie Stadium is not the Baylor Bear team Army played this Saturday in the Lone Star State. But the more important reality--and the stronger point of emphasis--is that the Army team that wilted against Baylor last year was able to Bear down this time and gain some revenge in 2006. For the second straight week, the state of Texas has brought out the very best in an Army team that will do some special things this season--Poinsettia Bowl, anyone?--if it maintains this level of passion, intensity, big-play capability, and late-game resolve.

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Where do you start with this dramatically improved and radically remade program in the wake of the triumph over Baylor? First, there's Bobby Ross making better late-game decisions. After depriving his team of one extra goal-line play the previous week against Texas A&M, Ross made a bold decision to go for a first down in overtime, and his aggressiveness was rewarded by his players. Credit Boss Ross for going for the brass ring. It was a powerful statement to a roster of players that had already begun to surge in confidence; going for the first down reaffirmed that confidence, which showed on the subsequent three plays that produced the game's winning score.

Another big hero in this huge triumph over Baylor is Tony Moore... freshman Tony Moore. Stopped on that final play against A&M the week before, the youngster--whose fresh new blood and off-the-charts intensity are quickly injecting a new and delightfully infectious personality into this program--made the two overtime plays that lifted his team to the winner's circle: the fourth-and-1 conversion, and then the four-yard march to pay dirt for the 27-20 final score. It's these kinds of step-up efforts that have Army in a deliciously different place compared to past football seasons in West Point.

And then credit Austin Miller, too. After missing a pair of field goals, it couldn't have been easy to try a 47-yarder in a tie game midway through the fourth quarter. But the placekicker came up huge, and that was but one more part in a big team win.

Also give Jeremy Trimble some love. A week after Army made a lot of big plays in the open field, the need remained for the Black Knights to do exciting things in open space, and Trimble's punt return for a touchdown provided a badly-needed spark for his mates.

Finally, credit Army's defense. The Brave Old Army Defense shut out Baylor in overtime, but before that, the Black Knight defense had to make a testy, trying, mentally exhausting, emotionally harrowing stand at its own 7-yard line to keep the Bears from winning the game in the final minute of regulation. After one last-minute loss to one Big XII South team in Texas on September 16, Army's defense made sure history didn't repeat itself on September 23. As a result, Bobby Ross' team stands at, yes, .500 for the season. And with Rice and VMI next up on the schedule, this team has a golden opportunity to reach the midway point of the campaign with a 4-2 mark.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. A great season is built one day at a time, and in order for Army's dreams to come true (in San Diego in late December), the Black Knights simply need to sustain the same mentality, effort and performance they brought to Waco this Saturday. With the same huge-hearted spirit and the same knack for crunch-time playmaking excellence, Army will succeed. It's all in the doing... again and again and again.


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