Okay, so the 2011 season hasn't been a particularly successful one for Army - like any season, it's been characterized by ups and downs - but so far the season has been fairly promising for the future of the program, even as 2011 continues to disappoint in the present.
I see a young team that puts a lot of pressure on itself to succeed. It's clear that Rich Ellerson's intent is to play perfect football every week. By saying "perfect football" I don't mean Army has to go 12-0; I don't even mean that Army has to perfect their offensive schemes, though they seem to execute at a very high level in general. For the most part they know how to execute on any given play. The wishbone is cranking out yardage, the Defense - earlier this year a noted liability has become a good unit - even Saturday's fake punt with the score tied (while untimely) was executed well from an assignment standpoint.
When I say Army football needs to play perfectly, I'm talking about those self inflicted obstacles: Penalties. Handling the football. Errors in situational play. Some days the Cadets need to play perfect football just to stay on the field. Other days Army may roll up a Tulane-like score with a full game of perfect football. Perfection in the 3 phases is the anomaly - it's a lofty goal to play perfect football in all three phases of a game. -perfection handling the ball is to be expected every game, from every player who touches the ball.
Want to knock the coaching staff for personnel choices, or for faking a punt at the wrong time? Fine. Not every call was the best call for the situation.
Can those things be improved upon? Sure. But there's no need to call for the coach's head after an inconsistent performance. Just like you can't expect 286 yards rushing in the first half of every game - you can't expect the coaches to get these young guys and second-stringers to win every game.
Sure Army had an early advantage, and a ton of momentum, and there were 3 games they lost in that fashion again this year. But this is as bad as it gets. Next year Army will lead the nation again in rushing and have even more depth and experience. Concerning the problem of turnovers: the Cadets couldn't hang on to the football this year? - fine they'll do it next year. I think the coaches are doing a fine job putting the team in a position to win. That isn't to say that Ellerson makes every call right - he has a penchant for gambling that is borderline self-destructive. You want to be confident enough in your fake punt that you can run it from your own 30 - the play was there... the execution?.. no.
It's a frustrating loss, no question - and we all had high hopes this year. We're right to have the expectation of great seasons, and Rich Ellerson has the program on track to compete with anyone. The youth movement is cear in the team's makeup through the whole year, we don't need Ellerson to qualify it.
"We are going to look at some different guys at some different positions, but just because the nature of the challenge this week and where we might be able to plus ourselves. It has nothing to do with the future. It has to do with the future as in next Saturday."
The Army athletics site put out a recent piece getting to know Max Jenkins. Kind of strange to see such a 'hello' story in the last three games of a player's career.
With all that said, one last quote from Coach E's presser gives us a look at Trent Steelman's condition as well as another allusion to the ever growing youth movement.
"(Steelman is) fighting through that last 10 or 15 percent. Having said that, I'm determined that Angel (Santiago) play. We keep saying that, but we haven't done it and he needs to. We're going to need the quarterbacks' legs to have a chance to move the ball in this game.
This season isn't over though and I see no reason to give up on team nor coaching staff. The program is headed in a very positive direction and I have a lot more confidence in Army experiencing on-field success than a team like Pitt. To me that's the comparison - can Army beat Pitt? I think Army would beat Pitt by 16 this year - home or away, bowl game, I wish it could happen. Can Army beat Navy? That will be determined later this year.
Up next is a Rutgers team that is above average for a Rutgers team, but still pretty bad.
Army should be able to beat Rutgers, but I said the same thing about SD State and Miami as well as N.Ill. and Vanderbilt.
Anyway, your Army/Air Force story, stats and highlights.