ARMY WEEK: THE GAME

Does Rich Ellerson’s job hang in the balance on Saturday?

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ARMY WEEK: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ARMY?

You didn’t think I was going to sit this one out, did you?

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FINALLY

Screw you, DOD, for even bringing us to this point. Screw you right in the face.

I assume this only applies to the Air Force game and that the Duke game is still up in the air, but hopefully we’ll get word on that soon. For now let’s just beat the crap out of Air Force and figure out if there’s a way to blame Troy Calhoun for all of this.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF NAVY FOOTBALL AND GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNS

The government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 every year, which means that any government shutdown caused by the inability to pass a budget will probably happen during football season. In the past, that didn’t make much of a difference to Navy football:

1976

The federal government was in partial shutdown from September 30-October 11.

10/02/76 – Navy played Boston College in Annapolis
10/09/76 – Navy played Air Force in Colorado Springs

1977

The federal government was in partial shutdown three times; from September 30-October 13, October 31-November 9, November 30-December 9.

10/01/77 – Navy played Duke in Durham
10/08/77 – Navy played Air Force in Annapolis
11/05/77 – Navy played Syracuse in Annapolis

1978

The federal government was in partial shutdown from September 30-October 18.

9/30/78 – Navy played Boston College at BC
10/07/78 – Navy played Air Force in Colorado Springs
10/14/78 – Navy played Duke in Annapolis

1979

The federal government was shut down from September 30-October 12.

10/06/79 – Navy played Air Force in Annapolis

1982

The federal government was shut down from September 30-October 2.

10/02/82 – Navy played Duke in Durham

1983

The federal government was shut down from November 10-14.

11/12/83 – Navy played South Carolina in Columbia

1986

The federal government was shut down from October 16-18.

10/18/86 – Navy played Penn in Annapolis

1990

The federal government was shut down from October 5-9.

10/06/90 – Navy played Air Force in Colorado Springs

1995

The federal government was shut down from November 13-19.

11/18/95 – Navy played Tulane in Annapolis

To be fair, not every government shutdown is the same. Regardless of the nature of the shutdown, though, Navy football was never forced to cancel a game. Contrary to some reports you might have read, Navy’s athletic department isn’t government-operated. There is no reason that the Navy-Air Force game should be cancelled this weekend. The order by the Department of Defense to cancel service academy athletic competitions is strictly a PR move.

BECAUSE AIR FORCE

Government shutdown could put Navy-Air Force game in jeopardy – CapitalGazette.com: Naval Academy | Military.

Could Navy compete in the ACC?

One of the Mountain West’s biggest talking points through all the conference realignment turmoil has been their “stability.” That’s just spin, of course. All “stability” really means is that you don’t have anyone left in your conference that another league might want.

The American Athletic Conference doesn’t have that “stability,” which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it means that the conference still has some name-brand programs adding to its appeal. It’s a curse because, well…

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This week in service academy football

This week in service academy football

Army (1-2): lost to Stanford, 34-20. This was supposed to be a disaster. It wasn’t. Army put up a great effort. Until the Cardinal scored a touchdown to make it 34-13 with about ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, it never felt like Army was out of the game. (They took advantage of a short field after Rich Ellerson decided to go for it on 4th down on his own 29. Puzzling call.) Things couldn’t have started out much better for Army, with the defense forcing a fumble and a 3 & out on Stanford’s first two possessions of the game. The Black Knights were able to turn that into two field goals, but field goals weren’t going to win this game. Stanford came alive on their next drive, ripping off some long runs to set up a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 7-6 lead. The Cardinal never trailed the rest of the way, although they couldn’t quite pull away, either.

Defensively, Stanford didn’t do anything fancy to stop the option, preferring to just line up in their base defense and counting on their players making plays. They did when they had to, but Army still ran for a very respectable 284 yards. Army’s defense kept Stanford surprisingly in check for a good portion of the game, but I kept getting the feeling that the Cardinal was holding back a little bit with their play calling. They spent most of the afternoon either throwing horizontally or lining up three tight ends and running the ball, both of which Army kept in check well enough. Stanford’s coaches only opened up when they really needed to, and when they did they got it; the Cardinal had 7 plays of 20+ yards. That doesn’t take away from Army’s performance, though. They forced two turnovers and kept the game within reach.

The question for Army now is where they go from here. Can they build on this performance? Can they do it without Larry Dixon, Raymond Maples, and Momo Kime if they need to? All three were injured on Saturday, and we should learn to what extent later today. Army has a reeling BCS conference opponent coming to town this week in what has to be considered a winnable game. After playing well against Stanford, beating Wake Forest to get to 2-2 would give the season a renewed optimism. Fall to 1-3, and things look pretty rough with 5 of the next 7 games coming away from Michie Stadium before heading to Army-Navy. The Wake Forest game might be the key to Army’s season.

Air Force (1-2): lost to Boise State, 42-20. For a while there it looked like this was going to be a real shootout. Air Force and Boise State were going toe-to-toe in the first half, with neither defense looking like it was going to step up. Then one of them did. Air Force was held to 98 yards in the second half as the Broncos eventually pulled away. Schematically, Boise State didn’t deviate very much from what Utah State did. Depending on situation, they either lined up in the same 3-deep 4-4 the Aggies used, or with 4 deep and having the playside safety roll up to play run support. Both are pretty basic defenses that Air Force sees all the time, and in the first half, they played like it. In the second half, Boise didn’t change the scheme. They simply manhandled the Air Force offensive line.

The two big questions for Air Force right now are about the defense and Jaleel Awini’s ability to run the offense. Regarding the latter, I’d say that we still don’t know. Everything sure seemed to be clicking in the first half, and he finished with 107 rushing yards and two TDs. On the other hand, this is the second straight game that Air Force has failed to rush for at least 200 yards. They’ve been able to do that much against even their toughest opposition in years past. Is it all because of the offensive line? How much of this falls on Awini? As for the defense, they had two really bad games against two really good opponents. We should get a more accurate read on that unit this week when Air Force takes on what should be (in theory) a more evenly-matched Wyoming team.

WILL SOMEONE TELL TROY CALHOUN TO SHUT UP

Troy Calhoun is tired of coaching in a conference full of Mormons.

Many Mormons of college age, you see, go on two-year missions; or as Calhoun calls them, the “two-year redshirt program.” That’s because this missionary work consists primarily of eating bowls of steroids and hitting the weightroom for 8 hours a day to turn these Mormon youths into 24-year-old man-beasts with a thirst for Air Force cadet blood (right?). So when Calhoun’s Air Force team is about to face a team from Utah, well, he just has to let the world know what kind of a disadvantage he’s facing.

Troy’s a pretty bright guy, though. He’s all about finding solutions to the tough problems, and this is no exception. His answer? Air Force should be able to redshirt players, too!

No.

It’s time people stopped buying into Troy Calhoun’s act. That’s exactly what it is, by the way. It’s all for show. Every single press conference he has, he finds some way to inject something about “gee golly service and country blah blah” or some pseudo-intellectual nonsense, and it’s so over-the-top that it’s sickening. Just try reading the first two paragraphs of his official bio without having dry heaves. Air Force is playing on Boise’s blue turf? Well gosh tootin’ they’re gonna have to fly over all kinds of colors someday. Sweet comparison, coach. The BCS is unfair, so let’s talk about the days of the “old Soviet Presidium.” Oh he’s so smart! And when Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen goes on a postgame tirade, noted constitutional scholar Troy Calhoun decides it’s time to reflect on the First Amendment. Seriously? How condescending can you be? Who talks like that? Someone looking to avoid the tough questions, that’s who.

And that’s the act. By being so over-the-top with his Howdy Doody facade of courage and the Constitution and whatever other patriotic buzzword you can think of, nobody bothers to question him. Look elsewhere for your stories, nosy media, because Troy Calhoun is an American patriot. There’s nothing to see here. If Dave Christensen goes on a rant because he thought Calhoun had one of his players fake an injury, don’t bother wondering if Christensen might have had a point. Dodging the media after a tough loss and saying it was all about “academics?” You don’t want to appear to be anti-academics, do you? So when Calhoun says he wants redshirts and wants his players to be able to turn pro, don’t bother asking how someone who spent 4 of his 6 years on active duty as a football coach could have the all-out gall to pretend that it’s for the good of the service.

Fortunately, there is one person willing to take Troy Calhoun to task for his comments: Troy Calhoun. Of course, the “no excuses” Troy that threw his fellow Air Force coaches under the bus was 2-1 and just finished taking Oklahoma to the wire. NuTroy is 1-2 and coming off of his first losing season. I guess now that he’s having his own problems, he’s more sympathetic to their plight. Imagine that. Then again, by saying he wants redshirts he might as well stand in his own locker room and say “I can’t win with you guys.”

Winning is hard, and coaching is a high-pressure job. It’s completely understandable that any coach would want whatever edge he could get. At the very least you’d hope for a level playing field. The challenge of service academy football, and the very thing that makes it special, is that you aren’t going to get one. There are some lines that cannot be crossed. Anyone that truly cares about service– or the future careers of service academy athletes– would understand that.

What to watch, Week 3

Here’s your homework for this weekend:

(All times ET)

Friday

Air Force at Boise State – 8:00 – ESPN

Let’s all read what HDMF has to say about the Smurf Turf, then ask ourselves how on earth there are people in this world that actually buy into his shtick.

Saturday

Stanford at Army – Noon – CBS Sports Network

I’m all about schadenfreude when it comes to Army and Air Force, but watching this one almost seems mean. I don’t know how much of this game I’ll be able to take. I am curious to see how Stanford lines up. I’m also curious to see if it matters. Maybe Army’s offense can hold onto the ball and give the Cardinal a scare. Otherwise it’s going to be one of those “the scoreboard is a lie” games.

New Mexico at Pittsburgh – 12:30 – ACC Network/ESPN3

As an analyst, Bob Davie talked a lot about how much he hated coaching against option offenses. As New Mexico’s coach, he’s putting his money where his mouth is. The Lobos run a shotgun option offense that’s pretty entertaining to watch. More importantly for us, it might give us an idea how Pitt will line up against Navy.

Georgia Tech at Duke – 3:30 – ESPNU

No, I won’t be watching this while the Navy game is on. I will record it to watch later, though. Should be self-explanatory.

Notre Dame at Purdue – 8:00 – ABC

Notre Dame lost to Michigan last week, but I don’t think there’s any shame in that this year. If they struggle against Purdue, though, that might reveal a few weaknesses.

 

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