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Around the Yard: Navy Searches For Answers, Army Travels West, and Air Force Carries Confidence into MWC Matchup

Let’s take a look at what’s been said this week around the yard at the three service academies as we prepare for our first weekend with all three teams in action since September 22nd.

NCAA Football: Navy at Southern Methodist Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been three very different weeks for our service academy teams this week. Army is coming off a bye, well rested, and prepared to travel across the country as they look to continue their impressive start on the season. Air Force must come off of the high of a major victory and much needed start to the CIC race following the defeat of Navy and play a really good San Diego State team on a short week. Navy is searching for answers, as the offense has been beyond inconsistent and the Midshipmen now return to AAC action with a surging Temple team coming to Annapolis.

Time to catch up on what’s been happening Around the Yard!

Army

First off, this is a really good article about the 2003 class of seniors at Army who stayed after 9/11 knowing what was in store for them upon graduation and how, even in a season without a victory, prepared themselves for the future. Times have certainly changed in the past 15 years, and the Black Knights have emerged on the winning side of things over the last couple seasons.

Army comes off their bye week feeling pretty good about where they stand, though, like any coach, Jeff Monken sees room for improvement. In fact, he states specifically that he would like to see Army go a game without missing a single tackle. Wouldn’t we all, coach?

Coming off a 42-13 drubbing of Buffalo, the focus during the bye week has been about intensity and effort, not allowing the team to take its foot off the pedal. Coach Monken even jumped into a special teams drill last week to show the team how it’s done, continuing to focus on the little things to make them better.

Speaking of the Buffalo game, Army has not fumbled now in four straight games, running their total up to 288 straight carries without coughing up the rock after struggling to hold on to the ball in their first game against Duke.

It seems the team really believes in Kelvin Hopkins and thinks that he can take them to new heights as the junior has emerged into what you need out of a triple option quarterback: he distributes the ball well, makes the right reads, and puts his teammates in a position to make plays and succeed. Oh, and he can sling it a little bit too.

Finally, not to let the spotless locker room be the only time they shine this season, Army Equipment has a new whip, showcasing their new truck which is making its debut this week on the road from West Point to Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco!

Air Force

The Falcons are riding high after their 35-7 dismantling of Navy last weekend in Colorado Springs.

They certainly will be carrying some extra confidence with them as they jump back into league play this week against a tough San Diego State squad. RB Kade Remsberg said the team was “stoked” about playing the Aztecs, even though it will be on a short week. Air Force must travel to San Diego for a Friday night game, and head coach Troy Calhoun surely knows that he can’t let the win against Navy result in a flat performance with less preparation time against their MWC foe Friday night.

The talk of the town has been the emergence of Donald Hammond III at quarterback following his performance against Navy. It would seem Air Force has found its QB of the future as the sophomore sizzled last Saturday and some of his teammates said they knew it was only a matter of time before he was in the starting role making plays. He definitely provided a spark to the offense that they hope will continue throughout the season and beyond.

Perhaps one of the biggest tell tale signs that Hammond is the right guy for the job was the distribution of the ball last Saturday. The quarterback kept the ball 19 times, the slotbacks and receivers got the ball 16 times, and the fullbacks 15 times. Hammond also threw the ball 10 times for 142 yards and a touchdown. Finding that kind of balance with the option offense can make you pretty lethal, and I’m sure Calhoun and the Falcons will look to continue to distribute the ball around with their new QB.

Not to be lost in the shuffle, Kennedy Beale, who is on the Air Force women’s basketball team, went viral on Saturday when a video of her doing seven back handsprings in a row across the end zone was shown by CBS Sports Network and then Twitter did its thing. The video has 38,000 views!

Navy

Most of Navy’s week has been spent looking in the mirror as they search for answers following the loss to Air Force. As has been pointed out by multiple coaches, players, and beat writers, everyone wants to blame the quarterback and make a switch away from Malcolm Perry to Zach Abey if he is healthy or Garret Lewis, but that isn’t what is the problem with the offense.

Coach Niumatalolo has been adamant that Perry isn’t the source of all of Navy’s struggles, and that they will continue to make him the first string quarterback this weekend against Temple.

One of the primary complaints has been that Navy simply needs to get back to running its bread and butter version of the triple option. An opinion column from longtime Navy beat writer Bill Wagner stated this as did an analysis from Mike James of TheMidReport. James admits he isn’t a coach, and of course the Navy coaching staff isn’t searching the internet for what we all have to say about how to fix their problems.

In fact, when asked about it in his teleconference this week, Coach Niumatalolo seemed slightly confused by the question, because, as he insisted, every week you are looking at how to get better, who to move around, what changes need to be made. Win or lose, you get back to work and personnel and scheme are always at the top of the list moving forward.

Regardless of what the pundits say, what can’t be disputed is that a really good Temple team is headed to Annapolis this weekend. The Owls are surging behind their quarterback switch to Anthony Russo and completely laid the wood against ECU last weekend. No one is going to feel sorry for Navy and their challenging slate of upcoming games in the AAC. The hits will just keep coming, but we can hope that the introspection will lead to more productivity beginning this Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, let me put a plug in for some non-football sports. There are four Star Series competitions this weekend against Army, which include men’s and women’s cross country and women’s soccer at home. Also, let me give a shout out to Navy women’s volleyball. They are a really good team this year, and the group of seniors is setting Navy records left and right. Sydney Shearn is now the all-time leader in digs for the school, Patricia Mattingly set the record for assists in a Star match win against Army last week, and Katie Patrick needs only four blocks this weekend at home against Holy Cross to set the school record there as well. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me!