After a much-needed week off, a relatively-healthy Army football team appears to be ready for its second straight Atlantic Coast Conference team when it hosts Boston College on Saturday at noon.
The question is which Army (2-2) team shows up to what is expected to be a full house Michie Stadium. Is it the Black Knight squad that looked impressive in victories over Delaware State and Texas-San Antonio and dominated Syracuse in the first half less than two weeks ago?
Or will it be the Army team that struggled against Louisiana-Monroe in an opening day loss and practically vanished in the second half against Syracuse in the Orange’s comeback victory?
Also to be considered is what Boston College (2-3) team takes the field for the first meeting between these two schools since 2013. Will it be the Eagles team that lost in overtime to now 1-4 Northern Illinois, got demolished by surprisingly-strong Louisville and barely squeaked by Patriot League opponent Holy Cross? Or the team that nearly knocked off fifth-ranked Florida State and staged a dramatic comeback to beat winless Virginia last Saturday?
“(The Virginia game) was a great win that Boston College had and it really showed their resilience and toughness,” said Army head coach Jeff Monken. “This is a very good football team and it is going to be a tough game to win. But it is a game that we got to win if we hope to be in the conversation for post-season play. And I think it is okay to acknowledge that and recognize that. The goal at this level is to play in bowl games. Not everyone can make the playoffs but there is a lot of us that can make the post-season and play in bowl games. This is an important game for that, as are the games that follows.
“All you have to do is look at the games we have left, do the math and figure out which games we have to win to be in the post-season. If we don’t win it, it does not mean there is no chance, but it certainly makes it harder. Our guys are smart and they recognize that. Certainly, you sit here at 2-2 and essentially have six games left that count, there is a sense of urgency for sure.”
Army will enter the game with some of its injured starters back. Monken said that sophomore running back Hayden Reed and junior defensive back Max DiDomenico have practiced and should play. Junior running back Tyrell Robinson, who has not played this year, has been taking some live reps in practice, and could also play on Saturday though Monken said that would be a game-time decision by the Army training staff and Robinson.
He was less optimistic about senior wide receiver Ay’Juan Marshall, who has not practiced yet after getting injured in the Syracuse game, and said that defensive lineman Andre Miller, who was severely injured against the Orange, is out for the Boston College game but could come back later in the season.
Monken explained that his team was excited to play another well-known football program, but he felt that Army still has to improve in its fundamentals in order to beat Power 5 teams like Boston College.
“We are still a ways away from where I would like us to be,” he said. “The fundamental things are really what I look at. It is not necessarily how many points we score or how many sacks we get. It really is our blocking and sustaining blocks. Are we doing a good job of being tacklers that terminate plays? They end when our guys get the hands on the ball carrier. Are we doing a good job of taking care of the ball? Are we creating turnovers on defense? Playing solid in the kicking game? I think all of those areas need improvement.”
Practice, therefore, is focusing on these fundamentals with the hope that it will pay off during the game. “To have a chance to play and beat Boston College, we need to do everyone of those things better,” Monken said. “We did not do those things well enough against Syracuse, a very talented team from the same conference as Boston College, and we came up short. Unless we do those things better, we will have a very difficult time beating Boston College.”