On a day when the Black Knights refused to concede any points to Tulane, the newfound confidence of a suddenly resurgent ballclub translated into the first victory of 2008 for Stan Brock's boys. It can now be said with airtight certitude that the previous week's narrow loss at Texas A&M was truly a harbinger of future football fortunes for this hard-working team. After turning New Orleans into its own personal playground, the Brave Old Army Team has finally found the mental mojo needed to prevail on a series of Saturdays, not just one.
Now that Army has broken the ice and registered a notch in the win column, perhaps the struggles of September will turn into an October-November period in which close games emerge on the sunshine side of the win-loss ledger. No, it wouldn't be wise to expect 44-13 blowouts against any remaining opponent in this 2008 campaign, but perhaps—starting next week against Eastern Michigan—a tight tussle will turn Army's way due to the increased enthusiasm the Black Knights displayed in their tsunami-like performance against the Green Wave.
The most impressive aspect of Army's performance on Saturday lay in the simple fact that these West Point footballers didn't take anything for granted. In past years, negative momentum has been known to swamp an Army sideline, drowning a whole team in worry and stress before the outcome had been decided. By failing to trust their abilities, the Black Knights—up and down their roster—would crumble in crucial situations and allow games to slip from their grasp. Saturday against Tulane, this is exactly what Army didn't do. Every surge of the Green Wave was contested and often combated, so much so that the visitors from the banks of the Hudson were able to break the will of their hosts early in the fourth quarter. In a classic case of role reversal, Army—not an opponent—played airtight football while producing special plays that caused an opposing sideline's shoulders to sag and slump.
The best examples of Army's effort against Tulane came, interestingly enough, on plays that had nothing to do with an offense that is steadily improving. With almost 300 team rushing yards, plus numerous game-breaking romps from running back Collin Mooney—who finished with 187 yards on 19 carries, for a spectacular average of nearly 10 yards a pop—Army's triple-option attack took another step forward in its development. Producing points while coughing up zero turnovers, Chip Bowden and Company presided over a performance that represents Army's obvious offensive blueprint for victory in 2008 and beyond. But with that said, the key plays of this contest came on defense and special teams, for they best displayed the desire and determination of a ballclub that has refused to quit on its hard-working coaching staff.
Two huge plays in this trouncing of Tulane came on special teams, as Army blocked two kicks to swing momentum in a vastly different direction. A blocked field goal early in the fourth quarter proved to be particularly crucial, given that a made kick would have brought the Green Wave within seven points at 23-16. After the block, however, Army maintained a two-possession cushion and found itself in position to take a three-possession lead (30-13) with a subsequent score. Blocking kicks is strictly—and literally—a matter of fighting through obstacles, and by altering the flight of two booted balls, Army's special teams unit provided the powerful pivot points that only amped up an already-energized sideline in the Superdome. More special plays from this third phase of football will be needed if Army is to maintain its newfound winning edge.
All in all, though, the biggest single play of Saturday's contest had to be Stephen Anderson's fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter. One has to realize that the line of scrimmage on that particular snap was the Army 6. If Tulane had been able to quickly tie the score at 7-all after Army's first-strike touchdown, "Big Mo" could have flowed in a dramatically different direction, straight to the guys in green.
But when Anderson scooped up the rock and took it the other way for an electrifying long-distance dagger, all the belief that began to creep into the Army outlook the week before in Texas came flooding back to Stan Brock's sideline. The rest, as they say, was history… as was Army's 10-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 13 of last year.
Army has always known how it needed to achieve victories in the Stan Brock era, especially in light of the emergence of the triple option offense. But a blueprint means little without confidence, and confidence is what truly told the tale during a terrific triumph over Tulane. The real "triple option" attack for Army might not involve a quarterback, a fullback, and a tailback; instead, this team's three-pronged approach could be said to involve confidence, care with the football, and kicking-game conquests. For one afternoon, that was the mysterious mix that delivered a win to West Point.
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