The tragic death of New Mexico Lobos football player Nahje Flowers caused the Air Force Falcons’ game against UNM to be postponed a few weeks.
With Navy having a week off before meeting Notre Dame, Army was the only service academy team in action.
The Black Knights took care of business in a way we haven’t generally seen this season.
It is true that the Massachusetts Minutemen were shorthanded and banged up, and that first-year head coach Walt Bell has a multi-year rebuilding project on his hands in New England. Nevertheless, a good team thrashes an undermanned team. It doesn’t merely win. It dominates.
Army dominated UMass on Saturday at Michie Stadium, carrying the improved level of play from the Air Force game into another contest. This is exactly what Jeff Monken needed to see, and it reinforces the idea that Army will be ready for its tougher tests later in the season, chiefly the Navy Midshipmen on Dec. 14. Army’s next game will be against the Virginia Military Institute. The Black Knights should have no problem with VMI. The Hawaii-Navy pair of games will determine Army’s bowl fate and ultimately tell us how successful this season will be. Army is certainly heading in the right direction after stumbling and trying to find its identity for two months. That identity has been found. The big question is if the Black Knights can retain it.
Air Force, given an unexpected week off, next plays Colorado State. The Falcons will face an opponent which has won three games in a row. The Rams have averaged 38 points per game in their three-game winning streak. They have scored at least 35 points in all three games. Air Force needs to punch Colorado State in the teeth and assert its physical superiority at the line of scrimmage, so that the Rams’ passing game can’t get off the ground.
Navy’s next game is a non-conference clash, the treasured annual meeting with Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish easily handled Duke this past Saturday, performing with more clarity and precision than in previous weeks. Navy hopes Notre Dame will regress to an extent this Saturday. That point aside, Navy’s late-game execution under quarterback Malcolm Perry has been so good this season that the Midshipmen will hope for one very simple scenario: Ball in Perry’s hands, down four points with three minutes left in the game.
If Perry gets one chance to win late in regulation, Navy will sign on the dotted line for that scenario. The real question therefore becomes: “Can Navy’s defense play well enough and long enough to give the offense a chance?”
If there is one unfortunate aspect of Navy’s date with Notre Dame this week, it is this: Seeing ND’s mediocre quarterback, Ian Book, probably won’t help the Midshipmen deal very well with their next opponent, SMU, on Nov. 23. The Navy-SMU game is a huge one in the AAC West, with Memphis having to play Cincinnati later this season. Part of the intrigue surrounding the Notre Dame game is how it will help or hurt Navy heading into the final tests of the AAC schedule.