Postgame Haiku, Vol. 74

In so many ways
The better team won today
Like they have all year

ARMED FORCES BOWL PREVIEW: MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE

The Armed Forces Bowl was originally supposed to be between Navy and a Mountain West team. With my new high-capacity DVR, I was going to be prepared. I recorded every Mountain West game I could find, including all of Air Force’s and New Mexico’s televised conference games to see how their opponents defended the option. Whatever Mountain West team Navy would be lining up against, I was ready for them.

LOL at me.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

I don’t usually get too wrapped up in winning bowl games. Don’t get me wrong; of course I want Navy to win. To me, though, just getting there is the most important thing. Once Navy has that 6th win and we all start looking at possible matchups for the Mids in the postseason, I don’t hope for whatever team gives them the best shot at winning. I want the toughest one. Give me Oregon or Alabama or the Houston Texans or the Tecmo Super Bowl Raiders with Bo Jackson. Navy tries to schedule reasonably in order to get to a bowl game, but once they’re there, why not hope for a shot at something special? At that point, there’s nothing to lose.

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IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, HIRE THEIR OLD SLOTBACKS COACH

It’s official: Army hired Jeff Monken to replace Rich Ellerson as their head football coach.

Judging by the list of reported candidates, it appeared that Army was choosing between going the “Jim Young” route or the “Paul Johnson” route. As usual when it comes to Army, Paul Johnson won. Of course, it’s unfair to Monken to simply reduce him to a “Paul Johnson guy.” He has a track record of his own to be proud of. Monken inherited a Georgia Southern program that was gut-punched by Brian VanGorder, and treading water under Chris Hatcher. He won immediately, taking the Eagles to the FCS semifinals in each of his first three seasons. Even this year, when 19 of his 63 scholarship players were lost to injury, Monken was still able to guide Georgia Southern to a 7-4 record and a win over Florida. If 7-4 is a down year for you, then you’re probably doing something right.

At first I didn’t think that any former Navy assistants would coach at Army. It wasn’t because I thought they’d have any loyalty to Navy or anything. Having competed against Army for so long, I figured they would have a pretty good idea how Army’s athletic department operates and want no part of it. Monken was part of Navy’s turnaround and knows what it took to make that happen. If he’s willing to give it a shot at West Point, then maybe it’s a sign that enough changes are on the way that he feels he can compete. Or maybe there are only so many places a coach with the “option” stigma can go to get a raise. Either way, it looks like a good hire for Army. If nothing else, it adds a wrinkle to Army-Navy.

Now the wait begins to see what kind of a staff Monken assembles and where Georgia Southern turns for their next head coach.

NAVY 34, ARMY 7

Looking at the final statistics from Saturday, you might think that this year’s edition of Army-Navy was completely different from the nip-and-tuck affairs of the recent past. This looked like a blowout, with Navy winning 34-7 and out-gaining Army 343-157 on the ground. There is no greater truth than the scoreboard, so in that I suppose you could call the game a rout. It sure didn’t feel that way as it happened, though, and once you dig a little deeper into the numbers you can see why. Both teams struggled to convert on 3rd downs, and combined for 12 punts. Four runs made up 165 of Navy’s rushing yards; it took 53 more to get the other 178, which is why the game felt like such a grind. Take those long runs away, and Navy’s advantage becomes a lot more modest. Unfortunately for Army, the big plays count as much as any other, and the Mids’ ability to make them was the difference in the game.

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For Army Football, a Duty to Win Again – NYTimes.com

For Army Football, a Duty to Win Again – NYTimes.com.

A couple of items to note here:

He also said Army could be slightly more relaxed on its admissions policy when it came to superior athletes. “We’re looking for a level of trust that our people out there recruiting can recognize that a young man has the character and leadership qualities to come and succeed at West Point,” he said. “We want to be able to take an educated risk on someone that we’ve identified holistically. We’re not talking about five deviations from the average cadet.”

Oh boy. That’s sure to raise some eyebrows.

Army’s admissions standards are their own business, so if they want to take their “educated risks,” they can go on ahead as far as I’m concerned. They can judge for themselves how well they are meeting their mission. What irritates me about this is that there is an implication here that Army needs to relax their standards in order to win. In other words, Army doesn’t win as much as Navy in part because their admissions standards are higher than Navy’s. That’s been a rallying cry among the Army faithful during the streak, but nobody provides any details when pressed. Considering how they’ve been sending as many as FIFTY recruits to their prep school, I would wager that the opposite is true.

“We’re a national institution that should play against other colleges and institutions and all over the country,” Dawkins said. “I think it’s crucial that West Point stand out as a place of winners. We owe it to the country. They deserve to have a winning Army football team.”

On a less serious note, another comment I see a lot from people in and around the Army program is that Army’s football struggles are an issue of national importance, or something along those lines. The American people deserve a winning Army team. No, the American people demand a winning Army team! Come on, now. Don’t get me wrong, winning is important in getting wider exposure to potential admissions candidates, and it should absolutely be very important to the school. It matters. Let’s just not pretend that anyone is losing sleep over it.

BETTER THEM THAN US

On a human level, it’s only natural to feel some measure of sympathy for Army after losing to Navy for the last 12 years. Anyone that has ever attempted anything worthwhile has at some point failed to do so and can relate to how that feels. We know the emotion of the game and see images like an inconsolable Trent Steelman last year and can’t helped but be moved. That’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and it’s why people watch sports. However, while I understand Army’s frustration, I’m not sure why I should care about it.

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