WEST POINT – Jeff Monken’s blood pressure had surely decreased, explaining why his face was no longer fire-engine red as it was following Army’s overtime loss to Yale this past Saturday. Still, after most losses, a coach will find something about which to praise his team. This week, the Army head coach deferred from that option.
Oregon is playing Arizona this week. Oregon is going to win. Florida State is playing Wake Forest. Florida State is going to win. There are no such guarantees on Army’s schedule, though its game against Yale could have been projected as such. Certainty is not part of Army’s mindset. Not anymore, anyway.
“One at a time, you try to win one game at a time,” said Monken, invoking the centuries-old, post-loss mantra. “You can’t do anything about the last one. There’s no use worrying about the ones that are gone, they’re over. We’re just trying to win this week, and if we can do that then we’ll try to win the next week. If we don’t win this week, we’ll put forth the same effort to try to win next week.”
Effort, or the lack thereof, has never been for problem for Army. These guys are busting their guts whether the game be a rout or a nail biter. The game against Yale surely qualified as the latter. Three days later, Monken still needed to address his decision to go for the fourth and less than a yard at the Wake Forest 15. A field goal would have given his team a two-score advantage, 46-36, about midway through the fourth quarter. Instead, Army went for it. Matt Giachinta was stopped cold. Two possessions later, Yale tied it. The next score came in overtime when Yale running back Tyler Varga scored the last of his five touchdowns.
“You win throughout the game, you just don’t win in the fourth quarter,” Monken said. “It’s come down to the fourth quarter for us the last two weeks and we haven’t been able to get it done. We did things to put ourselves in a position to win the football game on Saturday. We had a drive that took less to a minute and had a chance to kick a field goal and we didn’t make it. I certainly thought that gave us a chance to win.”
After winning its first game of the season – the home opener against Buffalo – Army has lost three straight road games. Saturday’s game against Ball State is the first of two straight home games and three of the next four. There’s also a neutral-site game Nov. 8 at Yankee Stadium. Now or never? Monken would not make that commitment.
“There’s not a certain point where you say the season’s a success or now the season can’t be a success anymore,” he said. “We need to improve, we need to get better as a team and get better as a football program. It wouldn’t do us any good right now if we were 4-0 and lose the next eight in a row. You wouldn’t say the season is a success or we’ve gotten to the point now where everything’s good. We’re trying to play our best every week, and we haven’t played as good as we’re capable of yet. When we do that, I think we’ll have better results.”
A.J. Schurr started his first game of the season at quarterback against Yale, but left the game at halftime with severe leg cramps. Angel Santiago, who started the first three games, was running the show in the second half. Schurr, a greater passing threat, completed 6 of 12 passes for 94 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 135. Santiago, the greater running threat, ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Both are now healthy. So who’s starting against Ball State?
‘I think A.J. is a confident kid,” Monken said. “He’s capable, he’s a good leader, he throws the ball well, he runs hard and I think both [he and Santiago] are good, tough football players. That was the reason that we gave him the opportunity to start, we really just couldn’t see that much a difference between the two of them and felt he deserved an opportunity to get in there. It’s a lot easier to give him the opportunity when you just say, `You know what, okay, here you go, you’re going to start and we’re going to see how it goes.’ Rather than trying to shuffle two quarterbacks in there. I’ve just never felt like that is the best for us in our offense. I thought he played very well.”
So who’s starting against Ball State?
“We’ll see who has a better week [in practice] and go from there,” he said.