Army's Book of "Job"

In the Bible, the book of "Job" carries a long "o" vowel sound. In football, the word "job" possesses a short "o" sound. Saturday in Buffalo, N.Y., Army endured a football fate so cruel that any reference to "J-O-B" could cut in either direction.

Job the person is the scriptural figure who is constantly forced to endure all manner of hellish circumstances, in a grand and unending test of faith. The small-j "job" is a simple task that needs to be performed well and consistently for humans to succeed as individuals and, more importantly, as groups. Pitted against the Bulls, Army wound up suffering the fate of Job, all because the Black Knights didn't do their job in the fourth quarter and overtime. The crushing 27-24 loss in upstate New York gave Stan Brock's bunch a bitter lesson that, in future games and seasons, will hopefully bear fruit.

The momentum produced by two straight wins traveled with the Brave Old Army Team to Buffalo, so much so that after three quarters, the Black Knights amassed a 24-10 lead. With the Bulls on the ropes, Army merely needed a solid and steady final stanza to secure a third straight conquest. After the previous week's fabulous fourth quarter against another Mid-American Conference opponent, it seemed that Brock's boys would finish the job.

Instead, Army wound up getting jobbed in a manner that Job himself could relate to.

First things first: When leading by 14 in the fourth quarter, Army stepped off the gas pedal and failed to go for the jugular. Inconsistent defense, plus a devastating fumble by star running back Collin Mooney inside his own 20 (one play after that same defense rose up to produce a fourth-down stop to turn aside the Bulls), enabled Buffalo to tie the game at 24. With a knife at the throat of its opponent, the Black Knights lost the killer instinct they had begun to cultivate. In a relatively short span of time, the calculus of this contest changed considerably.

Did you ever receive a vision test, in which certain shapes were suggested but not entirely filled in? The human brain will fill in those shapes, which are suggested in the mind's eye even when they're not completed in actuality. That process aptly describes what happened to Army in the fourth quarter. After two weeks of success, Army saw the picture and pattern coming together once again. The Black Knights knew that they were on the right path, and they could feel another win officially entering the record books. The vision of a victory was coming into focus.

But then that same vision just as quickly vanished. Why? Army looked at the patterns and pictures, but didn't put in the final small measure of sweat and concentration needed to seal the deal. Patterns have their place in life, and Army had begun to develop a winning way, but a positive process won't mean much unless the follow-through is always there to accompany it. Two wins won't mean that the third win will automatically follow. The work must bring about the result, and as the Black Knights so painfully learned against Buffalo, the smallest lapse—the briefest break in focus—can ruin Stan's plans and lead to a stomach-punch setback.

Army didn't finish the job after the Tulane triumph and the Eastern Michigan maker of manhood. Coach Turner Gill's Bulls wouldn't hand over a win the way the Green Wave did, and they wouldn't sag on offense the way the Eagles did the previous week in West Point. In the form of this Buffalo bunch, Army encountered an opponent that, while not necessarily more talented, proved to have more resilience than October's other on-field adversaries. As a result, a Black Knight team that ran in front for most of Saturday got nipped at the finish line.

And robbed at gunpoint as well.

The sad part of Saturday's loss was, of course, the blown 14-point lead, but that represented only half the story. There was a maddening portion of this pigskin passion play, and it lay in the fact that Army—after failing to do its job in the fourth quarter—got jobbed in overtime.

After Army's defense held Buffalo to a field goal, the Black Knights' offense took the field in search of a game-winning touchdown. On 3rd and 18 from the UB 33, quarterback Chip Bowden lofted a pass to the end zone, where the Bulls' cover corner—in an understandable attempt to avoid losing the game for his team—certainly appeared to commit a pass interference penalty. Taking 15 yards was, for Buffalo, a sensible move under the circumstances, given that the penalty would not put the ball on the 1, as would be the case in the NFL. Nevertheless, the flag would have given the Black Knights a 1st and 10 at the 13. Mr. Mooney would have licked his chops, so intent he was on atoning for his crucial fourth-quarter fumble.

There was just one thing wrong with the picture that—while filled in by the mind's eye—never quite took shape: the official refused to drop the yellow laundry on the field. Shafted and shocked, Army tried to regroup, but a false start penalty and an incompletion led to a 51-yard field goal try that missed. The game was over, and so was Army's winning streak. Injustice—and the pluck of a Buffalo team that didn't quit—both brought down the Black Knights in a terrible twist of football fate and fortune.

A loss like this one is a nasty blow, the kind that takes a full week to flush out of the system.

Army—so close to that three-game binge—must now start over, even though these West Pointers have made such substantial strides in the month of October.

Let this be a lesson learned: In big-time sports, you never put yourself in a position where one call can cause you to lose… not if you can help it, at least.

Army, truth be told, could have been able to avoid allowing this game to be decided by one really bad (non-) call. Stan Brock's ballclub didn't lose in overtime. No, the Brave Old Army Team lost hold of the Bulls in a fateful and fatal fourth quarter.

Don't do the job? You could then get jobbed, like Job.

That's one for the books—in the Bible or anywhere else.

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