WEST POINT – Another long-time Army rival enters its third century of play against the Black Knights. That would be Yale, whom Army will visit Saturday.
The last game between the two was in 1996, when Army defeated the Bulldogs 39-13 at Michie Stadium. The first of the 45 games played between them was a 28-0 Yale victory in 1893. Yale holds a 21-16-8 advantage, though, strangely, the two have each been more effective on the road. Army is 11-8-4 at Yale, but 5-13-4 at home. Sixteen of the games were decided by seven points or less; there have also been 13 shutouts.
One edge Army has over most of its opponents is a superior scholastic roster, but it’s pretty much a wash when playing an Ivy League school. And there’s brawn with those brains.
“Yale has a good football team, guys with good size and they have good athletes on their team,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said. “It’s going to be a battle for us. There are a lot of people playing college football around the country that play a really good brand of football, and the Ivy League is one of those leagues that we have great respect for.”
And while Army is coming off two straight losses, Yale won its season opener last week, 54-43 against Lehigh, and it did so with a massive offensive outbreak. The Bulldogs accumulated 683 yards of total offense, including quarterback Morgan Roberts completing 30 of 39 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. Two running backs – Tyler Varga and Candler Rich – each ran for over 100 yards. Wide receiver Deon Randall had 13 catches for 152 yards. Yes, they’re loaded. But Monken’s primary fear isn’t necessarily of his team’s opponent, but of the way his own team will respond following last week’s 24-21 loss to Wake Forest, a game in which the Black Knights proved to be their own worst enemy, with both turnovers and penalties at excruciatingly bad times.
“Hopefully our guys will rebound emotionally and mentally,” he said. “I’ve told the guys and said this many times, you can’t let one team beat you twice. I think our guys had a good attitude yesterday, came back to work, and I was pleased with that.”
With three of its next four games at home, the Black Knights are in a position to turn their season around before it begins to escape them. Last year, a season-opening victory was followed by four straight losses, the beginning of a sinkhole that had them finish 3-9. Monken’s belief is that many of the players are having problems assimilating new game plans and strategies from an entirely new coaching staff.
“It is a new offense for a lot of these guys; the terminology is different, the way we teach the fundamentals may be completely different,” he said. “I know they are in some things that we do and others are very similar. We put a lot more on our guys than maybe they were accustomed to, I don’t know. I am not going to lower my standards for the players. We have already set the expectations for this season and if we have low standards for them in terms of what they can remember, how much information we give them and their ability to apply the fundamentals the way we are teaching them, then we aren’t going to meet our expectations. We are going to continue to push them and I think that is what our guys want.”
Of course, what they want and what they can handle are two different animals.