The Navy defense picked a good time to turn in their two finest performances of the season, saving their best for last.
The Armed Forces Bowl was originally supposed to be between Navy and a Mountain West team. With my new high-capacity DVR, I was going to be prepared. I recorded every Mountain West game I could find, including all of Air Force’s and New Mexico’s televised conference games to see how their opponents defended the option. Whatever Mountain West team Navy would be lining up against, I was ready for them.
LOL at me.
Looking at the final statistics from Saturday, you might think that this year’s edition of Army-Navy was completely different from the nip-and-tuck affairs of the recent past. This looked like a blowout, with Navy winning 34-7 and out-gaining Army 343-157 on the ground. There is no greater truth than the scoreboard, so in that I suppose you could call the game a rout. It sure didn’t feel that way as it happened, though, and once you dig a little deeper into the numbers you can see why. Both teams struggled to convert on 3rd downs, and combined for 12 punts. Four runs made up 165 of Navy’s rushing yards; it took 53 more to get the other 178, which is why the game felt like such a grind. Take those long runs away, and Navy’s advantage becomes a lot more modest. Unfortunately for Army, the big plays count as much as any other, and the Mids’ ability to make them was the difference in the game.
Does Rich Ellerson’s job hang in the balance on Saturday?
I assume that by now you’ve all seen what Navy will be wearing at Saturday’s Army-Navy game. If not, then point your face at these glorious images and bask in their warm glow of excellence.
These are the home version of last year’s equally fantastic Nike uniforms, and I sort of wish that this was our permanent setup. It’s modern, yet still restrained, and undeniably Navy. I know some of you don’t like the look, and it’s understandable. You can’t be blamed for your horrible taste. What one could be blamed for, however, is saying that you don’t want something new because of “tradition.” Navy’s only uniform tradition is one of constant change. Sometimes it’s evolutionary, sometimes it’s revolutionary, but it’s always changing. The uniform that Navy wears now is different from the one from ten years ago, which was different from the one from ten years before that. Designs have changed, colors have changed, helmets have changed. We’ve seen all manner of combinations of blue, gold, and white between shirts and pants, complete with various stripes and shoulder hoops and patches and whatever else you can think of. Then there’s the helmets, which have had anchors (awesome, awesome anchors), numbers, and stripes at times over the years. And all that is before you factor in what Navy has worn for the Army-Navy game, which has had all kinds of bonkers stuff. And that’s Navy’s uniform tradition: to have fun with them. Despite what the “down in front” sourpuss that sits behind you at NMCMS and leaves at halftime says, football should be fun.
When people say “tradition,” what they’re really saying is that they want Navy to be plain. That’s fine if that’s your taste, but it’s not the same as tradition. Did Navy fans of the ’40s complain that uniforms didn’t look like this anymore? I don’t know, but if they did I’m glad that nobody listened to them. Navy isn’t Alabama or Penn State, where the traditional football uniform is part of the brand image of the program (and the school for that matter). Navy’s brand is defined by other things. That doesn’t mean that any change is great simply because it’s new; there’s a certain classiness that we want to convey, and nobody wants to look at a jumbled mess. But if something sharp comes along that helps showcase the Navy team, I say go for it. If you don’t like it, don’t worry. It’ll probably change in a few years anyway.
(Seriously, though. Anchors.)
You didn’t think I was going to sit this one out, did you?
You know, somewhere there’s a Navy fan that had a wedding or something to go to on Saturday, so he could only catch the beginning of the game. After watching a Navy touchdown drive and two Western Kentucky three & outs, he probably walked out the door thinking “we got this” and didn’t give the game a second thought the rest of the night. When he looked at the box score the next morning, he discovered that in the 9 minutes he watched of that game, he saw 1/3 of Navy’s total offensive production. I don’t know if he’s lucky to have missed that debacle, or unlucky to experience the shock the next day.
Either way, we all get to relive it now!
The opening week of the college football season will always hold a special place in my heart. Aside from providing a usually welcomed and much-needed break from a whole three or four days of classes, it has always managed to indulge that innate sports fan desire in me to see an upset. David vs. Goliath matchups? Week One always provides plenty of them, and that’s not likely to stop anytime soon. Sure, fans of BCS conference teams may moan ad nauseum about playing the Little Sisters of the Poor (who, it turns out, don’t actually field a team), but with the state of television contracts and ticket sale revenue being what they are, the incentive to play an FCS team isn’t the opportunity cost loss some people would like us to think it is.
Good for people like me who enjoy watching the ACC take its annual nose dive or two against Colonial Athletic Conference teams, but good for the FCS teams playing? According to Delaware head coach KC Keeler, maybe not. That, at least, if you’re going off of what Keeler said in the weekly CAA teleconference on Monday:
My preference is to not play any I-A teams. The goal of our program is not to win a I-A game, it’s to win a national championship. It’s really difficult to make the playoffs and we need to put ourselves in the best position possible to do so. We need to have enough wins to get into the playoffs.
Interesting comments, no doubt, especially when you factor in the history of the Navy-UD series. As Bill Wagner points out in his blog, the series has been going back to 1984 and is currently sees Navy with an 8-7 series advantage. Hardly the kind of one-sided stomping that certain SEC or Big 10 schools unload on their FCS “rivals” on a yearly basis, and by and large good football to watch regardless of the week the game is being played in.
While I don’t presume to actually define what’s good and what’s not good for the Delaware program, I can’t help but question what is behind Keeler’s comments, and if they’re really meant to be taken at face value. True, his team is among dozens fighting for 10 at-large spots in the playoffs if they don’t win the CAA – but I’m sure Keeler would tell you that winning the CAA is the first goal of his program each year, if only because it would include a bye in the playoffs and a possible streamline to the National Title Game. Likewise, if we’re to believe recent history, then beating an FBS team – especially a perennial bowl team like Navy – carries quite a bit of weight with the NCAA committee when considering at-large bids. So wouldn’t it help Delaware to keep playing a game against an FBS team like Navy? My inclination says it would, especially now that one of the CAA’s best teams – Massachusetts – is heading up to the FBS.
Smoke and mirrors? I’m not saying it is, but something tells me to take these comments with the suspicion of coach speak. Keeler’s program is established enough that it’s always going to be in contention for an at-large spot in the playoffs even if his team doesn’t win the CAA, and given the demanding CAA slate and the incentives of upsetting Navy, it seems a productive use of a game to travel down to Annapolis. The real reason for the comments? Economic, perhaps, but also to deflect attention from the matchup, and to downplay media attention for the upset that he and his players are banking on.
He cares. His team cares. They just don’t want you to know how badly they do.