Army football running out of time to prepare

By KEN MCMILLAN | The Times Herald-Record | Published: August 27, 2020

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WEST POINT, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Jeff Monken doesn’t feel quite prepared for Army’s football season opener on Sept. 4, but, then again, he never does. 

“I’m sure I feel like every other coach," Monken said Tuesday following practice. 

What’s different is Monken is thankful to even have a schedule, where dozens of other major programs — namely the Big Ten and Pac 12 conferences — won’t even play football this fall due to COVID-19 shutdowns. 

“We’re thrilled to have a schedule," Monken said. “There are a lot of teams that don’t have a complete schedule or are really trying to fill games and weekends and were struggling to do so. Credit to our athletic administration, Mike Buddie and Bob Beretta, who really worked hard to build a schedule for us." 

Start times have not been announced for all but one game thus far, as television networks (namely, CBS Sports for Army home games and the Navy game) frantically piece together their fall lineups on the fly, so there is no guarantee of the standard noon start time of recent years. 

The schedule features an all-time high of eight home games set for Sept. 5 vs. Middle Tennessee State; Sept. 12 vs. Louisiana-Monroe; Sept. 19 vs. Brigham Young (3:30 p.m.); Oct. 3 vs. Abilene Christian; Oct. 10 vs. The Citadel; Oct. 24 vs. Mercer; Nov. 7 vs. Air Force and Nov. 21 vs. Georgia Southern. 

The road games are Oct. 17 at Texas-San Antonio; Nov. 14 at Tulane; and, Dec. 12 vs. Navy at Philadelphia. A Sept. 26 date still remains open on the Army website. 

“I assure you that we made calls to everyone, everyone that is playing college football this fall, everyone, in a hope to schedule a game, and really we’re open to playing anybody because we just knew to have a schedule was what was going to be important, to be able to play." 

Gone from the original 2020 schedule are Bucknell, Rice, Oklahoma, Miami (Ohio), Princeton, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Massachusetts and Connecticut. 

“In a year like this, any schedule is a good year," Monken said. “To have 11 games currently scheduled is fantastic for us. So it doesn’t matter to us, to the players or to me who we play. There are some really good football teams on that schedule."

All the opponents are Division I-A, except for Div. I-AA schools Abilene Christian, The Citadel and Mercer. Five foes played in bowl games last season. 

In a pandemic, Monken realizes the Black Knights’ schedule is subject to change due to potential COVID breakouts. 

“We’re hopeful that it’s not us," he said. “We’re taking every precaution we can to keep that from happening to us but realize that even the schedule we have may change, just with the uncertainty of where teams are at and what happens as the season goes along."

Making the grade 

Army held its second scrimmage last weekend. Monken said the team improved over its first scrimmage a week earlier but noted there’s plenty of work to be done. 

“We just have to be more locked in," quarterback Christian Anderson said on Army Athletics video. “We had a lot of false start penalties, stuff of that nature. So that is all just mental focus."

“We’re trying to focus on getting our assignments right," linebacker Arik Smith said on video. “We’re constantly in meeting rooms, looking at what the offense is doing, trying to stop us, and coming up with new schemes and new ways to attack things in order to be successful against our offense." 

Monken commended several players for strong play: 

Anthony Adkins, sophomore running back: “He practiced and played just a whole lot better than he did the week before. He’s gaining more confidence as he runs the ball and getting more comfortable with the offense." 

Jakobi Buchanan, sophomore running back: “He had a good scrimmage. He had some good, hard, tough runs, breaking tackles. I thought that was positive." 

Andre Carter II, sophomore linebacker: “(He) really pursued the ball and chased the ball." 

Jeremiah Lowery, senior linebacker: “He’s tough and had a good scrimmage." 

Arik Smith, junior linebacker: “He is just a solid, hard-nosed, old-school tough linebacker. I thought he had a good scrimmage." 

Tyrell Robinson, freshman running back: “For the second week in a row, he did some dynamic things." 

Christian Parish, freshman quarterback: “He had some really good plays." 

Connor Bishop, sophomore center: “I think he’s getting better. He came into camp as a guard. He’s doing better. He’s improving (but) not perfect yet." 

Nick Stokes, senior defensive lineman: “He hasn’t played very much but he’s found his way into the two-deep and is playing real physical. I am proud of the effort he has put into it." 

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