Off the Yard:Truth and Consequences for Army?

After Saturday's 34-0 loss to Navy, Army fans will be calling for changes at all levels at West Point, from the Superintendent to the special teams coach. They will want somebody, outside of the Army football players, to take the fall for the loss. Army fans believe there should be consequences for losing to Navy…and they are right.

Questions for WP

Each year, West Point and Annapolis leaders try to convince the sports world that the Army-Navy game is the biggest and most storied rivalry in college sports. Stick a microphone in front of any general or admiral during the week leading up to the big game, and that is all you will hear. Ohio State-Michigan? Alabama-Auburn? USC-UCLA? "They've got nothing on us," they'll say. "Army-Navy is THE rivalry." Well, Army, it's time to prove it.

After last year's defeat to Navy, head coach Stan Brock decided to switch to an option offense, and by some reports he did so begrudgingly. It was a much needed and long overdue change. However, after this past Saturday, it became obvious that Navy had no problem figuring out Army's new offensive scheme. To compare, in 2002 the Mids switched to their current triple option offense and when Army's defense saw it for the first time it was baffled. The unit gave up 58 points to a Navy team that won only one game prior to the showdown in Philadelphia that season. And just when one thought Army's defense may have figured out Navy's offense the past two seasons…at least statistically…the Mids humiliated the Black Knights on both sides of the ball last Saturday.

Losing to Navy 38-3 brought a new offense. What change will losing 34-0 to your archrival bring to West Point? Are there still consequences to losing to Navy? Will anyone at Army be personally held accountable for losing to Navy by an average score of 39-10 over the past seven years? I'm sure former Army head coach Bob Sutton would like to hear the answer to those questions.

I have been wrong before, and I may be wrong this time, but my gut is telling me that Army will not fire any coaches this season. If Brock was going to be fired, it would have happened already. The last place you want an outgoing coach is on the recruiting trail, and all indications point to that being what the current head coach is doing. I would not rule out though Army bringing in a coach or two with option experience and reassigning some of the current staff to the prep school perhaps.

Why would West Point want to go that route? Consider this fact: Currently Navy's staff includes 60 years of experience in coaching an option-oriented offense. If you include years actually playing in an option offense it's over 80 years of experience. Navy hired three new offensive coaches last season, Mike Judge (Fullbacks), Joe DuPaix (Slot Backs), and Ashley Ingram (Offensive Line). They all have option roots. Judge spent four years running a triple-option offense at Springfield College as its quarterback; DuPaix was the offensive coordinator at option-minded Cal-Poly for three years; and Ingram was an assistant coach at Rhode Island for five years.

Coincidence?

Since I wrote this column questioning the leadership of Navy's offense, the Mids have outscored its opponents 50-0, converted 16 of 26 third downs, punted only 5 times, committed 0 turnovers, and averaged 5.6 yards per rush. The leading rushers for the Mids in those two games combined were both seniors Eric Kettani (217 yards) and Shun White (148 yards). All I can say is that it is a good thing I did not say anything about the defense. I mean how exactly could they have played any better? I will however take all the credit for the offensive play. That was all me. People looking to credit either head coach Ken Niumatalolo or offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper or any of the other offensive coaches, or players for that matter, would be praising the wrong people. Critics will point to my interview with Kettani as proof that he did not know about my column, but downplaying my influence on Navy football would be a huge mistake.

Wrinkles

Ever since botox hit the scene, wrinkles seem to have taken on a negative connotation. Well, don't tell Navy football fans that…they LOVE wrinkles – just like the two Ivin Jasper appeared to insert into the game plan for Army. The first was a pass play to Shun White, who came out of the backfield to catch a pass over the middle – and eventually score to put Navy up 17-0. And the second was a counter (or draw play) to White in the second half which helped the Mids pick up an important first down to keep a drive alive in Army territory.

Mixed Feelings

I would have been fine with a rematch in the EagleBank Bowl against Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Ball State or even Duke. Navy lost to all four of those teams this year and playing any of them again would have come with an opportunity for redemption. Now, Wake Forest, whose 24-17 loss to the Mids in September sidetracked their whole season, gets a shot at payback. After starting the year 3-0 and ranked in the Top 20, the Demon Deacons never recovered after losing to the Mids, as they lost 4 of their next 8 games to finish the year 7-5, unranked, and out of contention for the ACC championship. I can see the headlines already if Wake beats Navy on December 20: Riley's Redemption. Of course Riley refers to Riley Skinner who tossed four interceptions in the first meeting. Here's hoping the headline after the game is something along the lines of "Navy snaps bowl losing streak."

Even though the opponent is Wake, there are several positives about the bowl game that should not be overlooked. First and foremost, the staff at the EagleBank are determined to make this game a success, and I am confident that they will do everything possible to ensure the game and the events leading up to it are done in a first-class manner. Second, this will be for all intent and purposes a Navy home game albeit in a different venue. That will mean a march-on, a fly-over, and lots of blue and gold clad fans in the stands. Third and most importantly, it will be yet another chance to see Navy football before we all go into hibernation for eight months. And any opportunity to see the Mids play, regardless of the opponent, is something all Navy fans should never take for granted. I can't imagine once the game starts that anyone, including the coaches, players or fans will care who the opponent is as long as after the game the Mids are 9-4.

A Historic Opportunity        

If fullback Eric Kettani gains 68 yards against Wake Forest (he had 175 in the first meeting on only 19 carries), and slot back Shun White manages not to lose 21 yards, it will mark the first time in Navy football history that two players would have rushed for over 1,000 yards in a single season. According to my research there have been 43 teams to have two 1,000 yard rushers in a single season including two (Oklahoma and Lousiana-Lafayette) this season.

Rashawn King

As some of you know, I had the chance to spend a good portion of a day this past July with Rashawn while he was taking part in plebe summer training. You can read that article here. It was such a rewarding experience that it took four parts to tell the story. My heart broke when I heard about the death of his father. It broke again when I listened to Coach Niumatalolo's post-game interview on Saturday with Sam Ryan of CBS. I think it goes without saying that Rashawn and his family are in the thoughts and prayers of every Navy football fan across the world.

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