• Erin Summers

Army 2021 Season In Review

by Erin Summers

After a 9-3 season and a Commander in Chief’s Trophy win in 2020, expectations were high for the Army squad going into 2021.

The Black Knights started 4-0, then fought through multiple injuries to their quarterbacks, and some tough opponents, finishing with an 8-4 regular season record.

Army opened on the road at Georgia State, then faced Western Kentucky, UConn and Miami of Ohio at Michie Stadium. The Black Knights were victorious in all four and off to an impressive start.

Then it was on to Ball State, but without starting quarterback Christian Anderson, who was out with an injury.

"I think where there was a misstep, obviously, is at the Ball State game," says BTL Insider Sal Interdonato of, "You've won four in a row, and when you talk to Jeff Monken after the week after that game, maybe they thought that that Miami of Ohio game just took a lot of them physically in that game, that Miami of Ohio was a tough, physical team."

Army fell behind by three touchdowns to Ball State in the first quarter, too much to overcome in the 28-16 loss to the Cardinals.

Two more losses followed, each coming in different ways. The first was a one-score defeat against Big Ten foe Wisconsin, 20-14, followed by a shootout vs a Wake Forest squad ranked in the top 20 that ended 70-56.

At 4-3 Army headed to Arlington, Texas for the Commander’s Classic against Air Force and a 21-14 overtime thriller getting Army back on track thanks to a surprise passing attack.

"The highlight of the season is that Air Force went right," Interdonato says, "I mean, to do that in a neutral site, to do that in overtime, that Air Force is a very, very good team this year. "

Back at home, the Black Knights cruised to a 63-10 win over Bucknell, then celebrated with a 33-17 victory over UMass the following weekend on Senior Day. Then, the Black Knights surprised Liberty as Army’s defense shut down the Flames offense, for a 31-16 win on Thanksgiving weekend.

After that, it was all about taking on Navy on December 11. With one 2021 CIC victory already in hand for the Black Knights, Army had its sights set firmly on a second-straight, outright win of the coveted trophy.

Army and Navy battled in the first half at MetLife Stadium, but the Navy defense was stifling in the second half, and Army fell, 17-13 to their arch rivals, having to settle for a share of the CIC Trophy.

"Definitely didn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve," Interdonato says, "because the number one goal of every season is to beat Navy, and/or to win the Commander In Chief's Trophy which involves beating Navy, and they weren't able to get that done."

"It's the biggest game of the year. It's just an incredible feeling to be a competitor in that game and to lose that game," Jeff Monken, Army's Head Coach said after the loss to Navy. "I don't know if there's any loss that feels worse than than losing that game."

"There's a lot of 'What ifs'," laments Interdonato. "There's a lot of 'What ifs?' in the Army-Navy game. You know, there's a lot of 'What ifs?' when you look at these losses. You know, the Wisconsin loss, 20 to 14, I mean, they really woke up in the fourth quarter, to be honest. I mean, they were slugging it out, Wisconsin, for a while there and finally got the offense kind of moving in the right direction. The fourth quarter in the Wake Forest game, what if that fake field goal pass is not intercepted by Wake Forest and taken the other way? Is that game different?

Army now looks ahead to postseason play and the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl against Missouri on Dec. 22.

"It gives us one more opportunity," says Monken, "to put it behind us and play again and have that opportunity to go out there and compete again together one more time. And we're looking forward to that."

It’s also another opportunity for Army to send the 28 seniors off with a victory.

"This senior class has certainly meant a lot to our program," Monken said, "and they've led this team very well, starting the off season all the way through this this year, and they just never, never wavered from their commitment."

Defensively, the Black Knights will graduate nine seniors: Corners Julian McDuffie and Caleb John, defensive backs Cedrick Cunningham, Tavores Pearson, linebackers Kemonte Yow, Arik Smith and Malkelm Morris, as well as defensive lineman Ryan Duran, Nolan Cockrill and Kwabena Bonsu.

Offensively, quarterbacks Christian Anderson and Jabari Laws will put on their jerseys for the last time against Missouri, as will running backs AJ Howard, Brandon Walters, Markens Pierre, Cade Barnard and Wilson Catoe, tight end Chris Cameron, wide receivers Michael Roberts, Sean Eckert and Jalen Moy and offensive linemen Kamaron Holloway, Mason Kolinchak, Noah Knapp, Dean Powell and Zack Ward.

As for special teams, punters Brooks Hosea and Zach Harding are also graduating this year.

"We can't forget because he is probably going to be kicking on Sundays in the NFL, Zach [Harding]." Interdonato says, "How do you replace a guy like Zach Harding who could have these, like, NFL next-level punts like he did against Navy, like he did a couple of times this year, where the ball bounces out or is down at the one? Fifty-sixty yard punts? What consistency! He's the best punter I've ever seen at West Point."

Army can improve their record to 9-4 with a win over Missouri and will look to add to its all-time advantage in Bowl outings, which currently stands at 6-3.

edited for web by Joe Harman