by John Furgele
Unless you have some sort of tie to the Navy or the United States Naval Academy, you have to feel for the Black Knights of the Hudson as they lost to Navy for the 12th consecutive time, 34-7 in Philadelphia. The Knights fell behind 17-0, but after stopping Navy on downs, marched 68 yards to make it 17-7, and perhaps game on? Not really, as the Middies, (8-4) gathered back the momentum and pulled away to win easily. Army coach Rich Ellerson continues to take small strides at the Military Academy, but if he can’t find a way to win and win soon against Navy, he may be looking for employment elsewhere.
It is a tale of two academies. Navy continues to win and get to bowl games. They will play in the Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee later this month and no matter the result, will have at the least, an 8 win season. Meanwhile, up north, the Cadets finished 3-9, slightly better than last year’s 2-10 season. Both recruit the same type of player, both are undersized and both run similar offenses with the triple option. The triple option, because it’s not run by many schools gives both Army and Navy some advantages against its opponents, which, because they don’t see it, have difficulty staying disciplined trying to defend it. Navy runs it and runs it well. You may outscore Navy, but more often than not, they will score and make it a difficult game. The Middies were right there against Notre Dame and lost a double overtime game at Toledo by one point when their placekicker missed an extra point that would have and should have sent the game into a third overtime session.
The telling stat came courtesy of CBS studio analyst Brian Jones. He pointed out that Navy’s offensive line averaged 281 pounds while Army’s defensive line averaged 257 pounds. That says a lot right there. Simply, Army is too undersized to compete at the Division 1-A level. That said, so is Navy, but the Middies keep producing winning records. In 2015, Navy will give up life as an independent and will join the American Athletic Conference. At first, I thought this was a mistake because one of the reasons Navy does well is great scheduling. As an independent, there is tremendous flexibility. One week, it’s Notre Dame, the next it’s The Citadel. When Navy and Army were members of Conference USA they struggled because they really didn’t get a break as they can now. Navy schedules at least one 1-AA team every year and often plays teams from the “Little 5,” or non BCS conferences.
The AAC did okay in its first season. Its champion, Central Florida went 11-1 and gets the first and last automatic BCS bowl berth when they play Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. in 2015, Navy will line up against the likes of Tulsa, Tulane, East Carolina, Temple and Memphis, teams they have played—and beaten—in year’s past. The one dilemma will be when they schedule the Army game starting that year. In order to make it a showcase game, Army-Navy was moved to the second Saturday in December, but with the AAC going to 12 teams and a championship game, Navy will have to be done playing its regular season the Saturday after Thanksgiving in order to have the first Saturday in December free for the AAC Championship Game. Something of course, will be worked out.
As for Army, they will remain an independent, although the MAC, with 13 teams might be able to use Army to have a balanced 14 team league with two seven team divisions. But, that’s not likely to happen, nor is a move to Division 1-AA. The Black Knights might be much more competitive at that level, but academy pride will not let that happen. In 2014, Army does have two 1-AA teams on its schedule. The first is Fordham, which will not be an easy task. The Rams now give out athletic scholarships and this year went 12-2, advancing to the second round of the Division 1-AA playoffs.
I think most want Army to do well in football, and deep down, 3-9 is not that big a deal. But, it would be nice to see Army schedule games that they can be competitive in. We know that Navy and Air Force are givens, but why shouldn’t Army schedule four 1-AA opponents each season. In 2014, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Yale Bowl, Army will visit the Bulldogs in late September. That game will generate buzz, even more should Yale win. In addition to Fordham and Yale, why not schedule the likes of New Hampshire, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, and Delaware? As stated, it would be nice to see Army win more games, but with 257 pound nose tackles, that’s going to remain tough to do.