Academy Preview: Navy Hasn't Arrived... Yet

The Navy football team has excelled in each of its first two games, but that reality can't cause the Midshipmen to be complacent when they take on Western Kentucky. This is an important proving-ground moment for a talented bunch of players.


PROVING GROUNDS: AFFIRMATION IN ANNAPOLIS, TRANSFORMATION IN WEST POINT AND COLORADO SPRINGS

Theaters of competition demand the ability to prove oneself, to show that one is worthy of a given challenge. The nature and dimensions of that challenge will change from week to week, but the reality of a challenge is ever present.

This upcoming weekend, the challenge for Navy is different from the challenge faced by both Army and Air Force. Yet, week five is powerfully important for all three teams.

Navy will try to affirm that its first two performances of 2013 do not constitute a mirage, something that will quickly vanish in the course of an unfortunate afternoon. The Midshipmen have been at the top of their game in two offensive masterclasses against Indiana and Delaware. However, the nation has seen just how weak Indiana's defense really is. The young men who play offense for Navy cannot assume (or be allowed to subconsciously feel) that they have somehow "arrived" this season. This weekend's game at Western Kentucky certainly seems winnable, especially since the Hilltoppers stubbed their toes against South Alabama (another Navy opponent this season) in week three. However, the Midshipmen must not allow a bye week to erode the rhythm and precision they have established on offense through two games. It also has to be said that Navy can't look ahead to Air Force on Oct. 5. The Mids must display great attention to detail and complement that focus with an attitude defined by humility. This is not necessarily a physical test for Navy – that will come later in the season against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame – but this is definitely a measuring-stick game for the Men of Ken Niumatalolo on a psychological level. We're going to learn a lot about this team the next two weeks.

For Army and Air Force, the goal in week five is not affirmation, but transformation. At 1-3, the Black Knights and the Falcons have to find ways to turn around steadily sinking seasons. Army thought it had found a winning formula in a well-above-average showing against mighty Stanford, but Rich Ellerson's team regressed on offense against Wake Forest. Army knows that its next opponent, Louisiana Tech, has had a devil of a time scoring this season, so the Black Knights know that a win lies within their grasp. The same thing was said about Wake Forest, however; Ellerson's athletes have to push through their doubts and newly establish an ability to perform well on tipping-point plays, especially in the red zone.

For Air Force, this Saturday's game at Nevada is quite attainable. Las Vegas views this as a one-score game, so it's well within the ability of the Falcons to rescue their season. The main source of hope for the AFA is that the quality of Utah State, Boise State, and Wyoming will make Nevada's offense seem much slower and more containable by comparison. If Air Force's defense can use the past as a teacher and not as a source of depression, the Falcons can still get to a bowl game. A relentless immersion in the present tense, in the "now," is a core spiritual virtue. It must also be the Falcons' internal virtue when they take the field in Reno this Saturday night.

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