December 12, 2015
Navy beat Army for the 14th straight time Saturday night, 21-17 at Lincoln Financial Field.
A much bigger picture was painted by both coaches with a very broad brush.
“I can tell you this,’’ Army coach Jeff Monken said. “The enemy these seniors are gonna’ face is about eight months – they’re in for it; because we have some fighters. There is nothing anybody is gonna’ throw at them that’s gonna’ back them down.
“Ultimately,’’ said the second-year coach and former Navy assistant, “that’s our job at West Point; to build those warriors. And they protect all of us and protect the freedoms of the way of life we enjoy.’’
“Our country is in good hands with those kids going out to serve our country," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "There are some bad things going on out there. To know that those guys are going out to protect us, I think all of us here can sleep better at night knowing that."
Army was enjoying a 17-14 halftime lead before falling behind for good midway in the third quarter. A missed field goal from 29 yards out forced Army into needing a touchdown for a comeback, but in its final two drives they turned the ball over on interceptions – the final coming at the three-yard line on a Hail Mary.
“It was incredibly disappointing,’’ Monken said. “But I was encouraged. We have a team full of guys who fight. They laid it on the line like they have all year. It just came down to execution and critical mistakes that weren’t forced (like three fumbles). And when you do that sometimes you get beat.
“(Former Navy coach) Paul Johnson always said that physical superiority cancels all theory, and he’s right. But we have some very talented players, and these guys will mature. If a team is flat-out better than you, you’re probably going to lose. But I don’t think we’re that far away.
“I don’t know how many freshmen we played tonight, but we played 24 in our last game (against Rutgers). And the good thing about them is they’ll be sophomores.’’
Among the freshman was quarterback Chris Carter. In his second career start, he threw for 208 yards and a touchdown. In the run-first Army offense, that’s usually not a good sign.
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, a senior, totaled 113 yards passing and ran for 136. He also scored two touchdowns, the result being an overall Division I record 85 career TDs.
The win sent Navy to the Military Bowl later this month with a record of 10-2. Army finished 2-10. The separation, at least, Saturday, was not that wide. Army lost six of its games this year by a touchdown or less.
“I want to pay respect to coach Monken and Army,’’ said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who is expected to announce soon that he is taking the BYU head coaching position. “I thought they played a heck of a football game. They fought to the end. That was a great football game and it shows that when we play each other you can throw away the records. I thought those guys played really well.
“Our country is in good hands with those kids going out to serve our country. There are some bad things going on out there. To know that those guys are going out to protect us, I think all of us here can sleep better at night knowing that.
“This is just a football game,’’ he added. “It was hard fought. There is a much more important battle going on.’’