• Erin Summers

Army Pride On The Line vs. Air Force

by Erin Summers

The Black Knights enjoyed a Service Academy sweep last season, and with over a week since their last game, the tough loss to Wake Forest in week 8 isn't even a thought as all focus has turned to Air Force.

Due to unique COVID-19 circumstances, Army got to host both of its CIC Trophy games at Michie Stadium in 2020. This year Army's games against Air Force and Navy are both on neutral ground. For Head Coach Jeff Monken and the Black Knights, they don't care where the game is played, they just want to keep the CIC Trophy where it is -- at West Point.

"I know conference championships and other rivalries and national championships are awfully important and big," Monken said, "but for what it means to us and the 1.3 million people we represent in the United States Army, it's a pretty big deal. So a great source of pride. We're glad it's here and we will do everything we can and fight our butts off to keep it here."

"It's a Championship week," says senior Nolan Cockrill, Army's standout nose tackle and team co-captain, "so we're just gearing up to make sure we keep that trophy here and working hard and really hammered down on the fundamentals and everything that, you know, leads to success in games like these."

The Army Black Knights football team celebrates around the Commander In Chief's Trophy on the field.
The Army Black Knights football team celebrates winning the Commander In Chief's Trophy on the field at Michie Stadium after defeating the Air Force Falcons to claim the title on December 19th, 2020

While the Black Knights spent their bye week hammering down on those fundamentals, the key for Monken heading into this one is managing emotions.

"I think trying to to curb the emotion and how that plays into the game is really difficult," he said. "These games that we play for the CIC trophy are very emotional. What we've got to try to do is get our guys to execute at a really high level and to be able to go into the game and to continue to do that all the way through. Hopefully, to start the game executing very well in terms of our assignment fundamentals and continue through the game and not allow emotion to distract us from that."

Air Force leads the nation in running the ball, averaging just over 318 yards per game. Army runs for 312 which is good for second -- the next closest team in college football is a whole 60 yards behind.

"They're doing a really good job running the ball and stopping the run," Monken notes. "We strive to do that as well. And so, if we can defend them against the run -- we can stop the run effectively -- then I think that helps our chances."

Army currently ranks seventh in the nation against the run, only allowing 92.6 yards per game. Air Force sits at 13th and just under 100. It will be fun to see who gains the upper hand in this one and whether the trophy will change hands when it’s over.

The Falcons lead the all-time series 37-17 with one tie, and BTL be there for the 55th match-up between Air Force and Army and the first college football game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Tune in next week for our reports from the Commander's Classic.

edited for web by Joe Harman