IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, HIRE THEIR OLD SLOTBACKS COACH

It’s official: Army hired Jeff Monken to replace Rich Ellerson as their head football coach.

Judging by the list of reported candidates, it appeared that Army was choosing between going the “Jim Young” route or the “Paul Johnson” route. As usual when it comes to Army, Paul Johnson won. Of course, it’s unfair to Monken to simply reduce him to a “Paul Johnson guy.” He has a track record of his own to be proud of. Monken inherited a Georgia Southern program that was gut-punched by Brian VanGorder, and treading water under Chris Hatcher. He won immediately, taking the Eagles to the FCS semifinals in each of his first three seasons. Even this year, when 19 of his 63 scholarship players were lost to injury, Monken was still able to guide Georgia Southern to a 7-4 record and a win over Florida. If 7-4 is a down year for you, then you’re probably doing something right.

At first I didn’t think that any former Navy assistants would coach at Army. It wasn’t because I thought they’d have any loyalty to Navy or anything. Having competed against Army for so long, I figured they would have a pretty good idea how Army’s athletic department operates and want no part of it. Monken was part of Navy’s turnaround and knows what it took to make that happen. If he’s willing to give it a shot at West Point, then maybe it’s a sign that enough changes are on the way that he feels he can compete. Or maybe there are only so many places a coach with the “option” stigma can go to get a raise. Either way, it looks like a good hire for Army. If nothing else, it adds a wrinkle to Army-Navy.

Now the wait begins to see what kind of a staff Monken assembles and where Georgia Southern turns for their next head coach.

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NAVY 34, ARMY 7

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.

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