Service Academy Football Update: Week 15

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Army’s third Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy in four years will never be forgotten.

Before you say anything else: Yes, Army’s 2017 Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy will be remembered for a very long time. The Black Knights won the coveted service academy football trophy for the first time since 1996, ending a 21-year drought. The power and emotion of that breakthrough, cemented by a win over Navy, will own a special place in West Point football lore. It’s a gleaming, glittering moment which stands on its own merits… and stands very tall.

Yet, the 2020 Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy – as great as the 2017 feat genuinely was, and always will be – has already left a unique imprint on the Black Knights themselves and on the West Point community. The 2017 CIC Trophy is a towering feat never to be diminished. However, the 2020 CIC Trophy will never be matched. It will exist in a completely different category.

Sure, Army won the prestigious CIC series for the 2020 football season in very dramatic style. Shut down all game by Air Force on Saturday, the Black Knights came through when they needed it most with a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive ending on a fourth-and-goal touchdown with 1:13 remaining in regulation. Army converted multiple fourth downs and displayed the dynamism of a desperate team going all-out on every play. It was everything service-academy football is supposed to be, and Army captured the final climactic struggle on that fourth-and-goal play from the 1.

Would Army smashmouth it, or roll out, or try a trick play? Everyone wondered before the snap, but Jeff Monken kept it simple. No overthinking, nothing fancy or cute – just win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Army pushed the pile, created a crevice, and ushered Jakobi Buchanan into the end zone.

An interception of Air Force on the very next play from scrimmage quickly sealed a 10-7 win and enabled Army’s defense to bask in the glow of another remarkable performance.

These two defensive showstoppers the past two weeks could have been wasted… but Army made the extra handful of plays to make sure its defense was rewarded for its accomplishments. Two games, one scoring drive allowed, two victories despite the offense scoring exactly one touchdown on two successive Saturdays.

What Army did on the field – and how the Black Knights did it – is enough of an accomplishment in its own right.

Yet, what makes the 2020 Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy so special for Army is that the Black Knights were able to host and beat Navy and Air Force in consecutive weeks.

Since the Red Blaik era – and Pete Dawkins’ 1958 Heisman Trophy – how many immortal eight-day segments has this program enjoyed? Can anyone possibly come up with a better sequence of two straight Saturdays which were as enormous, and uplifting, and emotionally powerful as these December duels versus Annapolis and Colorado Springs, both on Michie Stadium turf?

The craziness of the pandemic, the unprecedented circumstances it has shoved on Americans, and the constantly moving parts of a volatile college football season all came together to create this two-week academy football feast at Michie Stadium. For Army to not only win both games, but do so with near-perfect defensive performances and immense mental strength, is something no Army football fan or historian will ever forget. We’re all going to remember 2017, as we should… but we’re going to remember 2020 in a way which is profoundly seared into our memories in ways no other year of college football will ever replicate.

This was a one-of-a-kind year. How incredible is it that after beating Navy, Army had enough focus and emotional reserves to fend off Air Force a week later?

This is a story Army men – especially the West Pointers who lived through this football season – will eagerly tell their grandkids 50 years from now. They’re going to have absolutely no problem sharing the details of this larger-than-life story which has been freshly written into the history books, and yet already feels as comfortable in the telling as a warm winter coat.

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Army got a scare when the Independence Bowl was canceled but the Black Knights were able to secure a spot in the more prestigious (and higher paying) Liberty Bowl, against West Virginia, instead. This will provide Army with a chance to win its 10th game of the season.

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