Wow. When Tulane beat Army, the verdict from many corners of the college football world was not that Army had slipped, but that Tulane is really good this year… and that verdict remains in place.
By Matt Zemek
Tulane IS good. The Green Wave are legitimate contenders in the AAC West Division. Coach Willie Fritz has transformed that Tulane team and, in the process, has become a hot commodity for the 2019 coaching carousel. Athletic directors at Power Five conference programs will be courting Fritz if they get the chance. Tulane is not the weakling it used to be. Army should not be downgraded based on how it played Tulane.
However, the following week’s loss to Western Kentucky raised big alarm bells about the 2019 Army team.
This was not supposed to happen.
Western Kentucky has been a mess since coach Jeff Brohm left after the 2016 season to coach Purdue. The Hilltoppers have never regained their offensive rhythm and flow since Brohm departed, and moreover, Army’s defense actually did a very good job this past Saturday, limiting WKU to only 17 points. This should have been the kind of game in which Army’s offense delivered a solid-if-not-spectacular performance and won comfortably. Allowing just 17 points to a mediocre opponent should lead to a drama-free win for Army.
This past weekend, that did not occur.
Army got only three first downs in the first two and a half quarters against Western Kentucky. The Black Knights were utterly stymied. Their offensive line was so consistently good this season, but it has struggled for much of 2019, and on Saturday against WKU, it hit rock bottom. Army’s only scoring drive came late in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game had already been decided. Down three scores – 17-0 – Army had no real chance of winning when it finally cracked the end zone.
This is a crisis. Army will try to begin to dig out of this ditch when it faces Georgia State.
1 – Fire in the belly
The game keys for Georgia State are not complicated, as is necessary when in a rock-bottom position as a team. First of all, everyone in that locker room needs to be fed up. The Black Knights need to be sick and tired of being sick and tired… and play like it. Army roared through its 2018 season and dominated Houston in the bowl game, playing with unmatched intensity and electricity.
Where is that? Army needs to find it.
2 – Block
Very simple: Army’s offensive line needs to block. Hit some people. Get a hat on a hat. Relish the challenge in front of the Black Knights and transfer that energy into popping some defensive linemen and linebackers in Georgia State colors. Hit somebody. Take charge. Kick butt. Let’s go!
3 – Ramping up
This isn’t a Commander In Chief’s Trophy game. Air Force comes a little later, then Navy in December. Army isn’t playing a service academy rival, but maybe Jeff Monken can awaken his players by getting them to realize that if they don’t improve their habits and their level of play now, they won’t be ready to defend their CIC Trophy.