Some losses are truly hard to stomach, and Stan Brock's team has had its share of gut-wrenching setbacks this season. The Buffalo heartbreaker would be one of them, the agonizing Air Force failure another. Saturday's 30-3 loss to Rutgers won't rank as one of those losses that will keep a coaching staff up late at night, for two primary reasons: 1) Navy is next on the schedule; 2) Rutgers is playing some big-time ball right now.
Had Army tackled coach Greg Schiano's squad two months ago, the Black Knights might have had a chance against the state university of New Jersey. In late September, Rutgers was reeling, and quarterback Mike Teel found himself in a deep, dark ditch of despair. Schiano's starting senior signal caller played miserably on the field, and hit a teammate off it. Few teams were more dysfunctional than Rutgers in the first half of the 2008 campaign. Army might have lacked wins in the early part of its slate, but the Black Knights had more team harmony and gave a more honest string of efforts than Rutgers did in the first six games of the season.
Ever since hitting rock bottom at 1-5, however, Rutgers has rolled, and Teel has been terrific. That pattern of renewal gained fresh momentum in a stunning 54-34 win at Pittsburgh, and ever since that breakthrough blowout, the Scarlet Knights have caught fire. After waxing Syracuse by 18 and South Florida (on the road, no less) by 33, Rutgers brought a 5-5 mark, and visions of bowl eligibility, into this encounter with Army. Being on home turf only heightened the feel-good vibe on the Rutgers sideline, and after two and a half quarters of football on the banks of the old Raritan, it wasn't hard to see why.
Rutgers cruised to a 30-0 lead in the game's first 29 minutes, before calling off the dogs to a certain extent in the final quarter and change. More than doubling Army's offensive output and displaying a dominant defense that actually outscored the Black Knights' limited offense, the Scarlet Knights stormed Brock's Boys with unrelenting aggression. As was the case with Texas Tech's loss at Oklahoma, Army simply played a hot team at the wrong time, and on some days, that not-so-magic formula tells the tale in big-time collegiate athletics. A superior team beat Army today, and that's hardly a reason for any heads to hang or shoulders to sag in the world of West Point football.
It's time to give thanks on Turkey Day for a season of legitimate improvement and honest effort. Then, preparations for Navy will kick into high gear.
Bad Day For the Wrong Knights
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