Jeff Monken is still waiting for his team’s best effort four games into the season and with Saturday’s home game against Tulane on the horizon.
Monken is still a little salty about the Black Knights’ 52-21 win over Morgan State following a bye week.
“I wasn’t happy with the way we played (against) Morgan State and frankly, I haven’t been completely satisfied with any of our games this year,” Monken said on his weekly radio show. “I feel like we can play better. I don’t claim to be the most talented team or have the most talented team. But, we can play better, perform better and execute our fundamentals a lot more cleaner than we have been.
“I think if we do, then, we are going to play a lot better. So, my frustration kind of came to head in the first half against Morgan State. No discredit to Morgan State but they had scored 12 points on the season to that point and we gave up 14 in the first quarter. I just didn’t think we were playing up to our potential. We needed to play better and it kind of went that way the rest of the game. Just not as clean as we needed it to be.”
Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins is healthy and practicing, Monken said. Hopkins should start his first game in almost a month since suffering an injury in warmups at Michigan on Sept. 7. He took one snap in an emergency situation against Morgan State.
Sophomore quarterback Jabari Laws, who was knocked out of the Morgan State game, has been practicing and should be Army’s No. 2 Saturday.
If anything else, Army found another capable quarterback in junior Christian Anderson from the Morgan State game. Anderson completed the longest touchdown pass at Army since 2004 with a 80-yard connection to Artice Hobbs. He also added 75 yards on the ground.
“We are thankful for having him (Anderson) in our program and Mitch Ware, our quarterbacks coach, and the job he does to prepare those guys,” Monken said. “To bring the third-string guy in and have him perform like he did, it thought he handled it really well. There are some things that we asked him to do, we put him in some tough spots, the pass to Hobbs was really a great throw and a big play of the game and broke that first half open for us.”
Tulane hasn’t taken the field since a 38-31 victory over Houston on Sept. 19. Coach Willie Fritz opted against playing for overtime as Tulane faked a kneel down for a 18-yard run. Justin McMillan, a LSU transfer, completed a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jalen McCleskey to finish a 21-point rally on the next play with three seconds left. The victory lifted Tulane to its first 3-1 start since 2003. Tulane’s only loss is 24-6 at Auburn, currently ranked No. 7 in the country.
“I have really talked to them all that much,” said Fritz about the Houston win during his press conference this week. “It is just about consistent behavior by me, the coaching staff and the senior leaders. You have to drown out the noise.
“I told them at the beginning of the year, one of my buddies went over there and watched coach Bill Belichick at his place and there was a sign in the locker room that the team comes first and to drown out the noise. You just have to worry about what is good for the team. It is very simplistic.”
Fritz preceded Monken at Georgia Southern after he was hired by West Point in December 2013. He admires the way Monken has resurrected Army’s program.
“They have a great staff and they are doing a super job recruiting,” Fritz said. “They work around the year recruiting, they are allowed to go out whenever they want. They have no cap. I think I counted yesterday and they had 177 guys on the team. They have their own prep school right on campus too with another hundred guys.
“They have just done a good job recruiting. They have a great system, they are very disciplined and tough, hard-nosed and they do not make many mistakes. So, we have a lot of respect for them.”