There may not be a team in college football that needs a bounce-back victory more than Army, the losers of four straight games, including what head coach Jeff Monken rightly described during his weekly press conference on Tuesday as a 62-0 “shellacking” to LSU last Saturday night.
Well, actually, there might be one or two teams. In fact, one may be UMass, which comes to Michie Stadium on Saturday for a noon kickoff, as the loser of seven straight games after an opening-day victory.
That losing streak includes a 63-0 loss to Penn State on Oct. 14 and a 59-14 beatdown to Auburn in early September.
The bottom line is that Saturday’s game will feature two squads that desperately need a victory to not only gain a much-needed win, but to restore confidence in their respective programs.
Even after the loss to LSU and its losing streak, Army definitely still has more to play for. The Black Knights, 2-5 on the season, can finish with a winning record this year by winning its last five regular season games. And, just a week after the UMass game, Army faces its first Commander-in-Chief contest when the Black Knights travel to Denver to face currently undefeated Air Force on Nov. 4.
“It will be as tough for us to win this week as it was the last five,” Monken said. “(UMass) is a well-coached football team. (Head coach) Don Brown does a tremendous job and I have a great deal of respect for him. They have some very talented players. They got 15 guys on their team that have transferred from Power Five programs that are playing for UMass.
“They are a talented team that has not won as many games as they hoped but neither have we. We are desperate for a victory and we will have to work really hard to prepare. What they do defensively is right up coach Brown’s alley. We have a real challenge on our hands.”
Monken will also have to figure out how to ignite the Black Knight offense after two consecutive shutouts. With no word on whether Bryson Daily will be ready to go after hurting his leg in the 19-0 loss to Troy two weeks ago, and not making the trip to LSU, Monken may have to again place his faith – and the Army offense – in two freshmen, Champ Harris and Larry Robinson, to lead the Black Knights.
The defense will also need to improve, particularly against big plays and doing a better job at tackling.
“I hope our team will execute the fundamentals,” Monken said. “I want us to block and sustain blocks on offense. I want us to defeat blocks on defense and be effective tacklers. Those things to me are the most important pieces to being successful and having a winning team and winning a football team. We have turned the ball over far too much and if we continue to turn the ball over, we are not going to beat anyone. We are not going to have a chance.”