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UConn Week: Jeff Monken

Photo by Edward Diller

There’s a laundry list of things that Army has to clean up after holding on to a 38-35 win over Western Kentucky, coach Jeff Monken.

High on that list are pass coverage, tackling, ball security and precision on critical third and fourth downs as the Black Knights watched a 21-point fourth quarter lead shrink Saturday.

Many of the missed assignments are fundamentally-based and can be controlled, Monken said.

“The opposing team doesn’t have anything to do with that, the crowd of the weather, the officials, none of that have anything to do with those things we can control,” Monken said during his Monday afternoon press conference. ” So it’s my job to make sure we do those things really well and more efficiently and better than we did last week.”

Don’t expect Army players to take UConn (0-3) lightly. Monken said he can assure that the Black Knights have “great respect” for the Huskies, who have been outscored 132-28, shut out twice and defeated by Holy Cross this season. Army is 33.5-point favorite Saturday.

“They have talented football players,” Monken said. “They have a really big football team, look at them on defense there as big as a team they we have played in a good while. We’ll have our challenges and our work cut out for us. What we have to do is try to improve on the things we haven’t done well enough this year.

“There are some things that we have done really well and we have to continue that. But there’s so many areas of our team and game that we have to improve and hopefully our guys will just focus on that. That’s all that matters any way.”

The playing status of starting center Connor Bishop is still to be determined. Monken said it’s too early to know where Bishop stands for Saturday’s home game against UConn. Bishop went down with a right leg injury in the opening series of the second half and needed to be carted off the field. Senior Noah Knapp shifted from left guard to center for the remainder of the game.

“We hope he’ll be ready,” Monken said of Bishop. “He may not be ready & if he’s not, we’ll go with Noah Knapp.”

“We’d like to get Connor back as quickly as possible. Hopefully, this week if not we’ll see. We’ll have to assess that as we go.”

Army could get some help on its offensive line with the potential return of senior guard Mason Kolinchak, who was injured in the preseason. Kolinchak started three games at tackle last season.

“He (Kolinchak) may play this weekend,” Monken said. “We are hopeful. That would give us some depth having to move Knapp over to center with Connor being hurt. If Mason can get back in there, that will give us some depth at the guard position. We are pretty optimistic that he will be back this week and if not certainly next week.”

Monken was asked about the firing of Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper immediately after a 23-3 loss to Air Force Saturday. The two’s friendship goes back to the days when Jasper was a Hawaii freshman quarterback and Monken was a graduate assistant from 1989-1990.

“I’ve known Ivin my entire career,” Monken said. “We are good friends. I think he’s a terrific football coach. It was unfortunate to see the change was made with him. I know him and Kenny (Niumatalolo) are good friends. They played together on University of Hawaii teams and Kenny coached at Hawaii while Ivin played his career. They are dear friends.

“It’s just an unfortunate circumstance that a change needed to be made. Their business is their business. Friendships are friendships. I love Kenny. He’s a great friend of mine and I love Ivin. He’s a great friend of mine. I think Ivin is a terrific coach and I’m sure he’ll land on his feet and continue to have a great career. It’s part of college athletics. Mack Brown once told me, ‘This is a great profession but a bad business,’ and he’s probably right. Sometimes, it’s a bad business to be a part of because of the tough decisions that have to be made sometimes.”

Monken was right about Jasper landing on his feet, Later Monday afternoon, Niumatalolo announced that Jasper had been reinstated to Navy’s coaching staff as its quarterbacks coach. Jasper has been on Navy’s staff since 2002 and team’s offensive coordinator since 2008.

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