Service Academy Football Update: Week 2

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Army looks sharp… and now has to wait to receive a tougher test.

Through two games, the Army Black Knights can’t find many faults or flaws. That’s the good news, and it should be welcomed. Jeff Monken’s team has outscored Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Monroe by an aggregate score of 79 to 7. No one can say that’s fool’s gold or a sign of a deficient team. Clear-cut success ought to be recognized as such.

It would be a mistake to say that Army isn’t as good as these first two games have indicated. Army has been far better than MTSU and Monroe. Nothing which happens in the coming weeks will change that. The proper nuance to recognize at this point in Army’s season is that the Black Knights simply need tougher tests. Army has been superior to the teams it has played; the question is if Army will be superior to teams from higher-level conferences, plus the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy games against Air Force and Navy.

Army’s defense pitched a shutout in Week 1 against Middle Tennessee. This past weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, Army maintained the same high standard at Michie Stadium.

The Black Knights allowed a 64-yard touchdown drive and a 59-yard drive which led to a missed field goal by the visiting WarHawks… and they were letter-perfect the rest of the afternoon. Those two long ULM drives accounted for 123 yards. On the WarHawks’ other eight possessions (plus an abbreviated ninth possession at the end of the first half), Louisiana-Monroe collected a total of just 77 yards.

Keep in mind that Army led 24-7 midway through the third quarter and 30-7 before the third quarter ended. The WarHawks were in constant hurry-up mode throughout the second half, needing to throw on nearly every play. These are conditions in which an offense might reasonably be expected to accumulate lots of passing yards and get some cosmetic touchdowns. Yet, even then — when it would have been understandable if Army relaxed and allowed ULM to fatten up its offensive statistics, the Black Knights refused to concede anything. They shut out Louisiana-Monroe in the second half and played this game to the very end. That’s a great habit for a team to have… and tougher opposition will show us just how good the Black Knights’ defense is.

The BYU Cougars, who crushed Navy 55-3 on Labor Day night, would have been the tough test Army needed. However, that game — scheduled for this upcoming Saturday on national network television (CBS) — has been postponed due to a COVID-19 problem in the BYU camp. We will see if Army can find a replacement; Houston and Baylor scrambled to create a nonconference game in a short period of time, so the idea that Army can find a new opponent on short notice is not ludicrous.

If Army is unable to fill that Sept. 19 date, it will visit Cincinnati on Sept. 26. Assuming that game isn’t postponed, Army will get its big measuring-stick game before September is over.

Elsewhere, Navy visits Tulane this upcoming Saturday in a game which will also be on national network television (ABC). The Midshipmen will go to New Orleans to face the Green Wave in an AAC clash. Navy paid a price for going a full offseason without hitting in practice. Now that the Mids got punched in the face (metaphorically) by BYU, one should expect a significant jump in quality against Tulane. How much, though, is the question.

Tulane trailed South Alabama this past Saturday, 24-6, but scored 21 straight points — 14 in the fourth quarter — to notch a 27-24 win. How well do Navy and Tulane match up? It would be hard to say we have a good idea, based on the uncertainty surrounding Navy football at the moment.

No one expected Navy to lose by 52 to BYU. Guessing what will happen against Tulane shouldn’t occupy too much mental exertion. Let’s wait and see what Navy will offer this Saturday.

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