Army Scouting Report

My favorite college football team and university is The University of Notre Dame du Lac. I am for the Irish above and against all others. However, I have other teams that I favor after Notre Dame. The service academies are my favorite college football teams and universities behind The Fighting Irish.

Wish Weis Imitated Rockne & Leahy

The Naval Academy comes first, as I served in the Navy, and because of the ties that Navy has with Notre Dame. The pecking order of who I root for is Notre Dame, Navy, Army, and Air Force, in that order. When that is not a factor, my rooting interest is aligned with the service academies against the rest of the college football world.

This week the Irish entertain the men from West Point. The series spans forty-eight games with Notre Dame leading 36-8-4. Interestingly, the Cadets come to South Bend for only the ninth time in the series. Ten other games have been played at West Point, and the other twenty-nine have been played at neutral sites.

Significant college football history has been made in this rivalry that dates back to 1913. The famous ambush of Army by Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne bringing fame to the forward pass and the little school from the midwest as the Irish defeat highly favored Army 35-13. The 1924 Army game gave birth to Grantland Rice's "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horseman rode again." paragraph in an Irish 13-6 win over Army. The 1928 ND-Army game is where Rockne supposedly delivered his "Win one for the Gipper" halftime speech and the Irish went on to a 12-6 victory. The two routs of Notre Dame by Army in 1944, 59-0, and 1945, 48-0, as the bulk of the Irish greats were off to war. Those two routs led to the famous 0-0 tie when the Irish players had returned to South Bend.

First, let me say that I have a deep and abiding respect for The Long Gray Line. The mission of West Point, its history, its service to the nation, and the quality of student athletes, future officers, and leaders that Army turns out is something that should swell any American chest with a deep sense of pride.

That being said, Army is a woeful football team plagued by 32 turnovers which ranks them last among the 119 Division I schools. They are 109th in total offense, 78th in total defense, 57th in punt return yardage, 4th in kick off return yardage, 115th in passes intercepted, 115th in passing efficiency, and 119th in passes intercepted.

In their last game, against Air Force, the Cadets turned the ball over on three consecutive offensive plays, completely mangled two kickoff returns, and gave up 36 points to Air Force in the second quarter alone. For the game, the team from the Hudson had three fumbles, losing two and gave up four interceptions. I've never seen anything like it in all my years in football, but don't take my word for it. Take Army coach, Bobby Ross's word for it as he left the field at halftime: "I've never experienced anything like this in my entire coaching profession. I don't know what else to say. Just one turnover after another. It's been our nemesis all year long." Ross's words sums up Army's season.

IE readers are only getting the above from me as a scouting report. Sorry, I don't think I can watch that Army-Air Force film again unless Mike twists my arm, or dangles some type of carrot before me. Further analysis of Army, presenting them as anywhere near being competitive with the Irish, would tax Lou Holtz to the nth degree.

What I'm about to suggest is somewhat Machiavellian, as it's directed at the team from West Point, and I do have mixed feelings about what is to follow. The respect your opponent concept takes a beating in the following proposal for Coach Weis.

What I would like to see Charlie Weis do is take a page from Rockne's "shock troops" and from Leahy's use of two squads during the late 40's. Rockne would use the second team to start the game or third quarter, and then he'd bring in the starters. Leahy had so much talent in the late 40s that he'd play one team the first and third quarters and the second team the second and fourth quarters.

Irish teams have not been the only ones to employ different units in games. One may be old enough to remember LSU, under Paul Dietzel in 1958, using the Chinese Bandits, primarily defensive specialists, who'd hit the field with their own theme music from the band. The rules in college football were such that one platoon football was the name of the game and substitution rules were a real headache for coaches to handle. More on this if you want more at:

www.nola.com

This week presents Notre Dame with the opportunity to play the second teams as complete units during meaningful game time. I'm not suggesting that the Irish play second team players whole quarters, but perhaps a series per quarter, as a unit, not as substitutions coming into the game one by one for starters.

Think of the benefits for next year. Send Evan Sharpley onto the field to actually run the offense, not to kill the clock, by having Robbie Parrish, George West, Richard Jackson, Konrad Reuland, and Will Yeatman catching passes, and by James Aldridge and Munir Prince getting more carries when the game is on the line. Think of using an offensive line that puts Matt Carufel and Eric Olsen in at guards, Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich at tackles, in meaningful play, where they can gain experience and playing time when it counts the most. The center could be Bob Morton as I don't think Dan Wenger has seen game time this year.

On defense we could see John Ryan and Maurice Richardson at DE, with Patrick Kuntz and Dwight Stephenson at DT. The LBs could be selected from Anthony Vernaglia, if healthy, Steve Quinn, Steve Smith, Toryan Smith, or Kevin Washington. The corners could be an alternating crew of Leo Ferrine, Darrin Walls, and Raeshon McNeil. The safeties could be a rotation comprised of David Bruton, Ray Herring, and Kyle McCarthy.

I think that my line ups above have preserved the eligibility of all who have not seen game time this year. If I'm incorrect in that I'm sure I'll hear about it.

I'm also not suggesting that any player mentioned above is a sure starter next year, but I would think that the Army game offers those players real game experience, in a setting where the game is on the line against another team's first string, versus the scrub time end of a game where both teams put the second string in when the game is no longer in doubt.

Is this disrespectful towards Army? Maybe, but it's at least argumentative as to the value of experience the backups could get towards next year.

Of course, when all is said and done Coach Weis will probably not listen to me on this. I'm having trouble getting him to take my calls. He should though, as I have a great idea for the USC game too, but it is so sensitive, so revolutionary in nature, that it will not be posted on IE. Sorry, IE readers, it's sort of a double secret probation kind of thing.


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