With a week to go and Army/Navy stories showing up, spotlights are on both coaches, on the teams, on Philadelphia and on American veterans. The national exposure is great and it's nice to not have to crib Sal Interdonato's notes every day for Army news. Having so many Army football articles to read is a new experience for me, so hopefully I can keep up.
Tucked between news of the NHL Flyers losing games and hiring a new coach, lingerie football league pictures, and sportscard advertisements Philadelphia has at last turned an eye toward the Army/Navy football game.
The Cadets have been off since Nov. 21, when they defeated North Texas. Ugenyi said Ellerson helped by switching things around in practice, "taking your mind off of what this game means and focus on what you're doing right now."
"I guess it's more of a lighthearted approach, not thinking about the game but enjoying our time with one another in the locker room and off the field," he said. "North Texas was the same way - we had to win that game to stay bowl-eligible. We went into that game focused but relaxed and ready to win, and we did."
So let me get this straight... back on Nov. 14 Army takes a lighthearted approach to VMI and eeks out a win in the home finale.
One week later Army goes on the road to North Texas and pulls out another late win after another uninspired start. They had a full three weeks between games... Army is lucky to be in position to play Navy for a bowl bid and Ellerson wants to take a lighthearted approach in the middle week of practice? I just don't get that. Coach, can you clarify?
(Ref.: keeping his teams’ emotions in check)
“You have to find that edge. Part of it you can build into preparations. There are a lot of distractions built up around this game – like what we’re doing today. There is a chance to be distracted from what we’re there to do. We’re preparing ourselves for that and insulating ourselves from that so can stay in the moment, play the next play, and focus on those things that correlate with winning. Certainly, we’re going to be excited to play. This is an easy week to coach from that standpoint. I’m not worried about where my team is emotionally. I’m worried about guys thinking they have to be too ready to play. What we have to do is go out and feed off one another’s energy, play the game we love and let the people that are there to watch, watch. Let’s not watch the people watching us, which I think sometimes can happen at an event like this.”
Coach E's perspective on Army's season to date seems pretty even keeled -
"We're doing what everybody really wants to be doing," the first-year coach said. "We're playing a game late in the season that has bowl implications. That's what we hoped for. This is obviously the greatest venue in college football, and we get to explore that opportunity in this venue. I couldn't be more excited."I just hope the fire can be ignited in this team when it counts.
The game is traditionally played on the first Saturday in December, but this one has been moved back a week to enjoy the full national spotlight. Navy AD Chet Gladchuk tells it like it is:
"We just felt strongly that this game deserved to be a focal point nationally," Gladchuk said. "I think it got diluted a bit with regards to the championships. Those other conferences were infringing on our territory. The next thing we knew when we turned around and took a good hard look at it, we had four or five championships being played on our Saturday. Army-Navy needed its own identity again."
Which is all good, but three weeks is a very long layoff between games. The schedule is what it is and the stage couldn't be bigger for the 2009 regular season finale... I'm very much looking forward to next Saturday.