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Army football not looking past Eastern Michigan

Army West Point football coach Jeff Monken leads the Army football team as they "Sing Second" after defeating San Jose State University 52-3 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Oct. 13, 2018.

JOSEPHINE PRIDE/U.S. ARMY

By SAL INTERDONATO | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: October 24, 2018

WEST POINT, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Jeff Monken was still counting his blessings Tuesday, three days after another heart-pumping win at Michie Stadium.

The Black Knights recovered from a fourth-quarter meltdown to edge Miami (Ohio) by one point in double overtime.

Army found a way to win for the 15th time in its last 20 games Saturday. Monken said in his locker-room speech that he was most proud of his players believing they would prevail.

"If you believe, you never lose momentum," Monken said.

Monken and Army need to keep riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak Saturday at Eastern Michigan.

In 11 days, Army will defend the Commander in Chief's trophy, which is proudly displayed in its football offices. Army gained possession of the service-academy prize last December for the first time since 1996. The trophy stays at West Point for another year if Army defeats Air Force. If Air Force wins, the Falcons take the trophy back to Colorado Springs. Air Force beat Navy 35-7 on Oct. 6.

If the service-academy teams are all 1-1 in the round-robin tournament, last season's winner retains the trophy. Army plays Navy on Dec. 8.

There could be a temptation to look past Eastern Michigan this week. Monken, who has led Army to five wins in its first seven games, isn't having it. He calls Eastern Michigan, which is 4-4, "one of the best teams that we have played" this year. Coachspeak, perhaps. Then, Monken backs up his statement with facts.

Eastern Michigan won 20-19 at Purdue in the second week of the season. That's the same Purdue team that dropped 49 points and knocked off No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday. Eastern Michigan has lost its four games by a combined 16 points, including three-point overtime heartbreakers to San Diego State and Northern Illinois.

"It's a tough road game," Monken said. "What we can't do is ever get the attitude that one game is more important than the next game or feel like there can ever be a let up.

"I just don't ever feel like there's a chance to breath because I know how good this team (Eastern Michigan) is going to be."

Players and coaches should take escaping with the Miami win as a lesson learned. It's not the first time that the Black Knights pulled out a victory in the waning moments. And, it won't be the last. Army has won 10 games by seven points or less in the last 22 games. Six of those wins have come on the final play, including a 28-27 victory over Eastern Michigan last October at Michie Stadium.

"Fortunately, we didn't have to pay the ultimate price and lose a game to learn those lessons," Monken said.

Monken takes the blame for Miami outgaining Army 215-12 in the fourth quarter and failing on fourth down inside Miami's 1-yard line in the final moments of the first half.

"There's a lot that we are going to take away from it (the Miami game) and hopefully, the biggest thing is our staff and myself, more than anybody doing a better job preparing our guys," Monken said.

Meticulous execution and a never-quit belief can make Army almost unbeatable.

sinterdonato@th-record.com

©2018 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.
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