Photo: Army quarterback Christian Anderson is stopped
#AFAN (Air Force/Army/Navy) stories: My series is about more than academy football players. These stories are about future officers selflessly committed to serving their country during a seemingly endless war on terrorism. There are only 0.5 percent Americans making up the military. Throughout our history Cadets and Midshipmen have answered the call to serve in times of war, but this is a generation of volunteers.
“I get to work daily with heroes that joined the military AFTER we were attacked on 9/11, AFTER the war started in Afghanistan and AFTER the war started in Iraq. I would like to think I’m that brave, but I’m not so sure."
-- Phil McConkey, 1979 Navy grad and New York Giants Super Bowl champion
By TOM SHANAHAN
HONOLULU – Next up: The Philadelphia Bowl … aka as the 120th Army-Navy Game. That explains why Army entered Saturday night’s late game at Hawaii unlike any other five-win team in the nation still seeking bowl eligibility.
Army’s loss to Hawaii 52-31 at Aloha Stadium ended the hopes the Black Knights (5-7) had entering the game that they could beat the Warriors (9-4) and Navy on Dec. 14 in Philadelphia to finish with a 7-6 record and gain bowl eligibility.
“We’re not going to be down on ourselves,” said Sandon McCoy, a junior fullback that finished with 91 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns. “We can’t be down on ourselves. We have another game, and it’s the biggest game of the year. We’ve to win it.”
Beating Hawaii, the Mountain West Conference West Division champion that plays No. 20-ranked Boise State (11-1) next week for the conference title, was a tough task by itself.
“Hawaii has a really good football team,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said. “We had difficulty stopping them. Our offense moved the ball effectively at times and other times we stalled out. We made some big plays, but we didn’t capitalize on enough of them. They out played us. Nick (Rolovich, Hawaii’s head coach) is doing a great job. They played a great game.”
Army actually outgained Hawaii in a shootout until late in the fourth quarter. Army finished with 538 total yards (411 rushing, 127 passing) to Hawaii’s 492 (133 rushing, 359 passing).
Although Army entered the game with five wins, the Black Knights only had four by bowl eligibility standards. Two of the wins were over Football Championship Subdivision schools, Morgan State and VMI. Teams are only allowed to count one FCS opponent toward six victories.
Others, such as Duke, hoped to win a fifth game this week – the Blue Devils did, beating Miami 27-17 – to sneak in the back door. If there aren’t enough 6-win teams to fill the 39 bowl games with 78 slots, the pecking order starts with schools that have Academic Progress Rate. Duke and Army are among the programs at the top of the list.
But as it turned out, two five-win teams, Michigan State and Boston College, gained their sixth win to fill the 78 slots.
Army, though, unlike Duke and other five-win teams Syracuse, West Virginia, TCU, Nebraska, Oregon State, Colorado, Ball State, Northern Illinois, Oregon State, Troy, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana Monroe don’t have a built-in bowl game.
Army-Navy is officially a regular-season game, but it’s the only one on the year-long college football schedule that has the last Saturday of the regular season reserved for it as a stand-alone a game.
There isn’t another rivalry game like it. Hence, it plays out like a bowl game, although that doesn’t do it justice. The Army-Navy Game, as Super Bowl champion coach Dick Vermeil once said while working the game as an TV analyst, is the only one with all 22 players knocked down on the opening kickoff.
Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer apparently has never attended an Army-Navy Game. He said earlier in the day the Ohio State-Michigan might be the greatest rivalry in sports.
SEASON IN A PICTURE
The picture of Army’s season in a snapshot was senior Kelvin Hopkins seated on his rear end unable to get up from a tackle following a 32-yard run to the Hawaii 34.
With 1:51 left in the first half and Army trailing 24-17, Hopkins broke a tackle to break into the clear in the middle of the field until he was sandwiched by a couple of pursuing tacklers. He remained on the ground as Army’s team trainers rushed on the field. They treated him, but Hopkins got up and walked off the field wobbly to the sideline.
With backup Jabari Laws injured in the last game against VMI, third-team quarterback Christian Anderson took the field. The junior had a 6-yard run to set up a fourth-and-1, but the Black Knights were called for a personal foul, a chop block. That forced Army to punt with 41 seconds left.
Hopkins’ nagging injuries since the second game against Michigan and the offensive line in constant shuffle from injuries have made it hard for the Black Knights to gain consistency, especially in the 17-8 loss at Western Kentucky and 17-13 loss at Air Force.
Hopkins left the game completing 1-of-3 passes for 69 yards and rushing 10 times for 89 yards.
If Army hoped to keep up with Hawaii’s run-and-shoot offense, the Black Knights were ready with explosive early plays. On the first snap, Hopkins read a blitz and rolled right, hitting slot back Artice Hobbs IV for a 69-yard gain. The final 10 yards were thanks to fellow slot back Kell Walker sustaining his block.
Three plays later Sandon McCoy scored on a 3-yard run for a quick 7-0 lead.
The teams traded scores in a 10-10 game until Army forced a punt and followed with an eight-play, 75-yard drive for a 17-10 lead in the second quarter. But later Hawaii capitalized on two costly mistakes to take a 24-17 halftime lead.
The first was an interception Hopkins threw on third-and-14. Hawaii outside linebacker Solomon Matautia picked off the ball at Army’s 39 and returned it to the 25.
One play later Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro completed a 25-yard pass to Cedric Byrd II to tie the game 17-17.
On Army’s next possession, the Black Knights failed on a four-and-two attempt from Army’s 33-yard line. Hopkins missed Cam Harrison on a short swing pass while throwing under pressure.
Hawaii took over at the 33-yard line and scored seven plays later for the halftime margin despite facing a first-and-20 after a holding penalty.
The Warriors took the second-half kickoff 76 yards in six plays to score on a 1-yard run by Miles Reed for a 31-17 lead.
When Hopkins didn’t return to the field for Army’s first second-half series, that appeared to mean the rout was on. But Anderson found his game, breaking off a 11-yard run on first down from the 25.
Army and Hawaii continued to trade scores, although the Black Knights were stuck playing catch-up.
On the opening third-quarter drive Anderson followed his 11-yard gallop with runs of 10 and 24 to set up fullback Connor Slomak, who broke into the free up the middle. He veered to his right to the end zone to finish a 30-yard run that trimmed the deficit to 31-24.
“The whole offense had to get behind him,” McCoy said of Anderson. “He stepped up and we got behind him. I guess it just took a series.”
On Army’s next possession, he took the Black Knights 75 yards in eight plays. He broke off a 40-yard run to start the possession. Malik Hancock, a senior slot back, scored on a 10-yard run to cut Hawaii’s lead to 38-31 with 1:26 left in the third quarter.
Army’s third possession of the second half was a long-distance challenge after Hawaii punter Ben Scruton pinned the Black Knights on the 1-yard line with a 34-yard boot.
That forced Anderson to attempt his first pass on third-and-nine from the 2-yard line. Harrison had a step and a half on his man but Anderson over threw him at the 35-yard line down the right sideline.
But Army’s defense gave the Black Knights another chance, stopping Hawaii on a fourth-down play. Anderson mounted a 10-play, 41-yard, but a fourth-and-five pass from the 30-yard line was incomplete to Harrison in the end zone.
Hawaii took possession and completed a 45-yard pass on third-and-4 with less than five minutes left in the game. On third-and-11, former starting quarterback Cole McDonald, playing in relief of the injured Cordeiro, completed a 20-yard TD pass to Jared Smart for a 45-31 lead with 3:51 to play.
That left the Black Knights, with their ground-oriented offense, facing too many points to overcome with too little time.
By the end of the night, Anderson led the Black Knights with 114 yards rushing on 12 carries. He completed 1-of-4 passes for 15 yards.
But Anderson also didn’t finish the game, when he was injured running the ball with 2:42 to play.
Freshman Jemel Jones, who wasn’t listed on the printed roster, came in as the fourth quarterback to finish the game. He ran six times for 20 yards but 13 yards in losses left him with a net 7 yards. He completed 3-of-4 balls for 43 yards.
His only previous playing time was mop-up duty in a 63-7 rout of Massachusetts.
Is there a quarterback left for the Army-Navy Game?
“We got two weeks, we’ll find out,” said Monken when asked who will be available. “I have no idea. Hopefully they’ll be healthy.”
HONORING THE 25TH
Army honored the 25th Infantry with its insignia on the back of their helmets. The 25th is based at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island with Honolulu. The 25th conducts military operations primarily in the Asia-Pacific region.
The 25th was activated on Oct. 1, 1941, a little more than two months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. The 25th was sent to fight in the Guadacanal counteroffensive.
BITTERSWEET HAWAII HOMECOMING
Monken, 52, returned to the roots of his coaching career, serving as graduate assistant at Hawaii under Bob Wagner in the 1989 and 1990 seasons. One of Wagner’s assistants was offensive coordinator Paul Johnson. Monken’s time coaching with Johnson eventually led him to service academy football.
When Johnson was named the head coach at Georgia Southern in 1997 he hired Monken as his running backs coach. When Johnson was named Navy’s head coach in 2002, Monken followed him again as the running backs coach
“A lot of guys here (Hawaii) that are part o program were here when I was here,” Monken said. “It’s great to see them. When you’re on teams with people in sports, you love those people. You invest a lot together, you fight a lot of battles together so those relationships remain. It’s been great to see those guys, but I wish we could have won the game. It would have been a lot nicer to come back to Hawaii with a victory.”
After Monken’s time at Navy, he was the head coach at Georgia Southern from 2010 to 2013 before Army brought him to West Point in 2014.
SHAWN AKINA REMINISCING
I didn’t know it until now, but Monken’s time at Hawaii was when we first crossed paths in 1990.
That was the first year I covered the Shawn Akina Classic, formerly an annual event at Aloha Stadium in the 1990s that matched mainland high schools against Hawaii teams. I traveled to paradise from 1990 to 1996 to see some great football and future stars, including the great Teddy Lawrence, a Morse San Diego Player of the Year that went on to play at UCLA..
One year Morse played St. Louis, a Honolulu private school, before nearly 30,000 fans at Aloha Stadium. That and the Banyan Tree patio overlooking Waikiki Beach at the Moana Surfrider – my favorite place in the world -- got me hooked on returning six straight years.
St. Louis is the alma mater of Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, not to mention Cordeiro, Hawaii’s redshirt freshman quarterback.
The “Akina” name is well known in Hawaii football. Duane Akina, an assistant coach at Stanford in a 40-year coaching career, is one of several Akina family members to play high school football on the Islands.
Duane Akina’s son Kainoa played quarterback at the University of Hawaii from 2003 to 2005. His son Kamalil is a junior backup quarterback for the Warriors after playing two seasons at San Mateo Community College in California.
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Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light http://tinyurl.com/knsqtqu
-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.
Don’t believe the myths at Duffy Daugherty’s expense about Bear Bryant’s motivation to play the 1970 USC-Alabama game or myths about the Charlie Thornhill-for-Joe Namath trade. Bear Bryant knew nothing about black talent in the South while he dragged his feet on segregation.
David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in.”