Unbeaten No More, Army Takes Bye Week Before Wisconsin
by Erin Summers
After starting the season 4-0, Army hit the road for week 5 and were 10-point favorites going into their game against Ball State, but that outlook changed quickly . . . very quickly.
Army's 28-16 loss to Ball State broke a seven-game regular season win streak that dated back to November of 2020. The Black Knights were never really in the game and Head Coach Jeff Monken was not pleased.
"That was just a good old-fashioned butt whipping," Monken said to the media following the game, "and not much else to say other than that."
It was Army's roughest start yet this season, with Ball State returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. "The kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game," Monken noted, "there's just no excuse for it. [We] just didn't make the play. That was the whole story of the game . . . didn't make plays."
To make things worse, the Cardinals scored on their next two possessions to lead 21-0 before the game was ten minutes old. The 21-point deficit was the largest Army has faced all season.
With junior quarterback Christian Anderson sidelined due to injury, Tyheir Tyler got the starting nod, leading Army to two straight scores in the second quarter. The two touchdowns -- both rushing touchdowns by Tyler -- brought the score to 21-14, Ball State, at halftime.
"That did come as somewhat of a shock," said Arik Smith, Army senior linebacker on the team finding themselves down by three scores early in the game, "but as we got into the game we got the ability to settle into what we do and what we do best. And I think our execution got a lot better."
Neither team scored in the third quarter, and Monken opted to replace Tyler with Jemel Jones. Jones had limited success, until the Cardinals broke through in the fourth quarter, scoring another touchdown just three plays after Jones threw an interception.
"We have to run the ball and run it effectively," Monken said, summarizing why the Black Knights got stymied, "We have to be able to do it against whatever defense we see. And if people are going to cheat that many guys to the run, then we have to be able to throw a pass. We weren't able to do either one."
The Black Knights have a lot of time to think about their first loss of 2021, with a bye week before they head to Camp Randall Stadium for a match-up against Big 10 team Wisconsin.
"Hopefully we'll take it as a lesson and prepare and get better," Monken said, "We're certainly going to need to to to play better. [Wisconsin] is certainly the the most talented, and biggest, [most] athletic team that we've faced so far this year. And to beat Wisconsin is going to take an absolute tremendous effort."
Things won't get easier for Army after Wisconsin. The Black Knights will host undefeated Wake Forest the following week, then their first Commander In Chief contest two weeks after that when they take on Air Force on November 6, at a neutral site in Arlington, TX.
edited for web by Joe Harman