A Marshall Plan, Football Style

In the attempt to beat Navy and close 2005 on a five-game winning streak that will give his program limitless momentum heading into ‘06, Bobby Ross--Army's sideline general--will need to look to a famous Army man for inspiration. The man is General George Marshall, an ultimate example of a Man with a Plan.

George Marshall is, of course, the man who helped formulate the Marshall Plan, the massive effort to help Europe rebuild and recover after the devastation of World War II. Marshall, both during and after the war, was a supremely resourceful general, adept at moving pieces around and being more organized than just about anyone else. Marshall was also very responsible for giving life and momentum to the idea that America should devote considerable financial resources to Europe at a time when the continent needed assistance.

So in the end, General Marshall was, as the kids might say today, "cash money" in pressure situations.

All wordplays aside, the thing about George Marshall that should remain firmly lodged in the minds of Army's players as they try to beat Navy this upcoming weekend is that the good general was resourceful. Army will need a little bit of everything to beat a Midshipmen team that, in the three years of the Paul Johnson era in Annapolis, has beaten Army like--dare we use the expression?--a rented mule.

The resourcefulness angle makes total sense for a number of reasons. First of all, Army has already shown that it can win in different ways with different balances of offense and defense, rushing and passing, quarterbacking and running. The Black Knights have won blowouts and close games, in the first half and in the fourth quarter. When Army takes the field against the Midshipmen, all four quarters will have to be won, and the balance between Carlton Jones' ground game and Zac Dahman's aerial exploits will need to be used to Army's advantage. Jones, Dahman, and the rest of Army's playmakers will need to hit on all cylinders, providing a one-two punch that can keep the Ross family offense (head coach Bobby and offensive coordinator Kevin) diversified and put Navy's defense on a pendulum in the process. By calling forth the full extent of their talents and capabilities, the Black Knights--particularly on offense--can throw the kitchen sink at Navy and stagger the favored Midshipmen with the unpredictability that comes from having a strong yet balanced attack.

But the idea of resourcefulness being Army's biggest key to victory is an idea that also works on the defensive side of the ball. A quick look at Navy's season shows that the Midshipmen put the ball on the carpet a few times each game. When you have an offense as intricate as the triple option--which demands a ton of slick and difficult ballhandling maneuvers from the quarterback, who also has to make a lot of split-second decisions in addition to being a good ballhandler--you leave yourself vulnerable to turnovers, no matter who you have under center. But when the quarterback of a triple-option offense is a first-year player such as Lamar Owens, you're at even greater risk for turnovers. So you can mark it down that on at least one occasion, probably twice, Owens or one of Navy's running backs will put a pigskin on the turf. If Army can grab just one fumble in a really key situation, the whole tone and tenor of this game could change in the Black Knights' direction. Being resourceful on defense is just as important as being opportunistic on offense. If the lessons of this season's toughest losses--Baylor, Iowa State, Central Michigan--can be combined with the lessons gained from this year's great wins--especially those over Air Force and UMass--Army will be able to beat Navy and finish an already-successful season in style.

At the end of the day, Army does need to emulate General George Marshall when it plays Navy this Saturday. Marshalling resources--this time on a football field, and not the field of international aid or infrastructure development--would not only make the good general proud, it would create a seminal moment in Army football history.

Yes, it makes you tingle with excitement just thinking about the prospect of a victory over Navy. It has to give an Army fan goose bumps to consider how healthy this program would be, and how bright the future would look, if the Black Knights can take down the Midshipmen. But if the ecstasy and joy are to be attained, the sacrifice and--in this case--the resourcefulness have to be displayed first. If Army can summon up the right combination of passion and precision in the biggest and most defining moments of Saturday's game, the Bobby Ross era--as good as it's become over the past month--will become a million times better heading into 2006. This season has already achieved much in West Point, but with one particularly resourceful masterpiece against Navy, this season could wind up exceeding anyone's wildest expectations.

Exceeding anyone's wildest expectations… that kinda describes the plan of General George C. Marshall now, doesn't it?

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