To say the least, last weekend was a tumultuous one for Army head coach Jeff Monken and his football team.
After what seemed like an overnight grassroots social media campaign to get the team a bowl bid, the Black Knights have their opponent set and are looking forward, not back.
It was “frustration and disappointment and sadness and confusion,” Monken said. “As we went through Sunday and we realized we were sitting there without (a bowl game), (we) just worked really hard to get our story out there, we were making a plea to have an opportunity for this football team.”
It seemed like the news of Army possibly ending their season without a bowl game took fire on social media, with the Black Knights garnering a bunch of attention and bandwagon-like support.
“I think anybody that follows college football, if they saw a 9-2 team that didn’t get in, they (would have) been defending that team and saying they get an opportunity,” said Monken. “We’re humbled that so many people thought of our team that they wanted to get behind us.”
Army’s message quickly became: We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.
As it turned out, that opportunity became facing West Virginia on Dec. 31 in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl.
This Army team is 9-2 on the year and has beaten three triple-option teams in its last three games. Now, the defense will he tested again, this time taking on Neal Brown’s version of the air raid.
Against Air Force (3-3), Army’s defense held up well, keeping the Falcons scoreless through nearly three quarters. Like many other rivalry matchups, it was a low-scoring game and Army had just three possessions in the first half, giving them the early lead. But the victory wasn’t without injury.
Both Sandon McCoy and Jakobi Buchanan were “banged up” during the game, Monken said, but continued to play, especially with the absence of so many others on the field that afternoon. About 50 players didn’t suit up for the Air Force game — about half due to season-ending injuries, the rest for normal injuries, contact tracing, or COVID-19.
After taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from an Air Force defender, Tyhier Tyler was relieved by Christian Anderson at quarterback. Monken later assured Tyler didn’t have a concussion but with the help of the staff, made the decision for him to sit out the rest of the game. He was in practice Tuesday morning to prepare for WVU.
Monken estimates nearly half of the estimated 50 who were absent against the Falcons have a chance to get healthy in the remaining days. He also says that he’s prepared for every one of the quarterbacks to play on Dec. 31.
In West Virginia, the Black Knights are going are seeing a 5-4 team that went in double overtime against Baylor and has seen the likes Oklahoma State, Texas Christian and Iowa State. But after the support they’ve gained to get to this point, it’ll be another chance for Army football to present themselves on the big stage.
“I think that’s important for Army football,” Monken said. “We want to remain relevant on the national scene with the biggest teams and the way to do that, is to play some of those teams.”