Know Your Opponent: Army Black Knights

Welcome back to another week of KYO, where we scrutinize the mascots, traditions, coach, players, and criminal records of each Ohio State Buckeyes football opponent, prepping you fans/loyal WFNY readers for a sure-to-be exciting contest of wills on the ol’ gridiron. This week our boys in scarlet and grey take on the Army Black Knights of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York!

Let’s kick this off with Army’s 2017 trailer:

Before we go any further, I need to give credit to all my West Point-alumni comrades who provided much of the fodder for this week’s column. Half my fantasy football league is West Point grads, and like any fanbase, they are the true experts on why their team is shit and what sucks about it. I usually hate to crowdsource info I can easily find myself, but with this many experts on hand as a resource, it would be journalistic malfeasance to pass up their input.

To top that list, last season Army snapped a shameful 14-year losing streak to arch rival Navy, the longest such losing streak in the rivalry’s storied history. I was as shocked as anyone, as I assumed Army had stopped trying to win the annual matchup, much like Michigan stopped trying to beat the Buckeyes after Jim Harbaugh’s arrival.

FBS Stats: Unranked, stats per Sports Illustrated:

  • Points per Game: 34th
  • Yards per Game: 91st
  • Points Allowed per Game: 25th
  • Yards Allowed per Game: 66th

Yeah, so if we go solely by stats as how we rate and rank college teams, the Black Knights have the Buckeyes beat in every category except Yards per Game. Yikes! A small sample size early in the season combined with both the Buckeyes offense and defense shitting the bed in three-quarters of the games will do that. Army runs the vaunted quadruple option like every service academy, as mandated by congress, so our DBs will get a much-needed break this week, but they will lose out on practicing looking for the football while covering a wide receiver, a sorely lacking skill in our defensive backfield. Army has a whopping 17 total yards through the air this season, compared to 835 on the ground. At least they’ll be using the exact opposite approach that Indiana and Oklahoma used to shred Ohio State to pieces, so take solace there, Buckeyes fans.

Mascot: The Army Mules


So, I have to admit I had no idea the Army Mules existed until writing this article. Wikipedia says the mules also serve as the mascot for the entire U.S. Army as well as West Point, but believe me when I tell you these fuckers don’t show up anywhere but Army football games. The mules were established in 1899 as a counter to the legendary Navy Goat, which I also 100 percent knew existed.

Mules were the traditional pack animal of choice for the U.S. Army, used to haul Army gear for generations. There are currently three Army mules: Ranger III, Stryker, and Paladin, each named after a type of Army unit or weapon system. Each mule has a cadet handler, responsible for their grooming, feeding, hoof-doctoring, and proctological exams. This seems like just the sort of job a young Army officer, fresh out of West Point and reporting to his first unit, wants to tell his new soldiers about. That’s a surefire way to instill confidence in grizzled and combat-hardened sergeants that their new and baby-faced lieutenant, with no actual Army experience, learned commensurate lessons about leadership and sacrifice at the United States Military Academy that they learned through years of hardship and war zone deployments.

There is apparently a costumed version of a mule as well, known as The Mule, and someone who dresses up as a real Black Knight. How many goddamn mascots do these people have? As I say most weeks, I root for a humanoid poisonous tree nut in a 1930s football outfit, so perhaps I’m not the best person to point this shit out, but three mascots is overdoing it. Think of the taxpayers!

Finally, and this is not related to Army football, but if you are going to have an Army Mule, this is how you do it.

Record: 2-0, First in Independent standings

Army destroyed Fordham in week one, 64-6, then executed a fake punt in week two to avoid giving Buffalo the ball back with under three minutes to go in the fourth, winning 21-17.

I for one could watch fake punts all day long. The last time the Buckeyes attempted one was against Michigan last season, but it failed spectacularly. Say what you will about the Buckeyes’ offensive struggles since their national championship run, I consider Urban Meyer’s failure to execute fake punts every fourth down as the greater indictment of him as a head coach and former special teams guy.

Coach: Jeff Monken

Monken evokes a slightly grayer around the ears Crispin Glover, who you may remember as George McFly in Back to the Future, the missing-arm valet from Hot Tub Time Machine, and as the insane and maniacal villain in countless other movies. So, a real compliment for the Black Knights’ leader.

Monken played WR at Millikin University in Illinois, graduating in 1989. His first coaching gig was as a GA at Hawaii, then at Arizona State. He then coached WRs and TEs at Buffalo, before receiving his first head coaching job at Morton HS in Illinois. He then moved to Concordia to coach offensive line before making his way to Georgia Southern to coach RBs. From there he coached RBs and special teams at Navy, then the same at Georgia Tech, before being brought back to Georgia Southern to be the head coach in 2010. Army picked him up in 2014.

Monken took some heat for his staff violating NCAA recruiting rules a month after he was hired, but rightfully avoided blame as he had no hand in the planning of the offending trip and was not even aware it had occurred until it became a news item. Team members took recruits to a local mall unsupervised and got them all hooped up on booze and whip-its, then had one of them make out with a female cheerleader. This is in direct violation of the academy’s honor code, which requires cadets to avoid all human contact until the age of 25 and their advancement to the active duty rank of Captain, or upon completion of their second combat tour, whichever comes first. By all accounts Monken has run a squeaky-clean operation since then, much to the detriment of this week’s column.

Silly Traditions:

My research showed Army football-centric traditions were limited to singing the school’s fight song at games, so we’re going to widen our search this week and include academy-wide traditions. First up is the infamous United States Military Academy Ring. Known colloquially as “Ring Knockers” to their non-academy peers, graduates of West Point receive their infamous class rings the fall of their senior year, just like the students at every single college in the entire country.

Cadets can personalize the middle stone of the ring, but a scant 8 percent of them possess the imagination required to choose anything but the default pink. After the seniors return to their dorms, the underclassmen gather around and beg the seniors to show them the rings, upon which the youngsters recite a poem known as “Ring Poop.” I did not make that up. Then the underclassmen are allowed to kiss the seniors’ new rings, everyone gets high off canned air, and they all wake up the next morning and avoid each other’s gazes for a few days. Once commissioned as officers in the Army proper, West Point graduates wear their rings to all official Army business and knock them on tabletops and against their coffee mugs to signify their superiority to their meager Officer Candidate School and ROTC-graduate counterparts. From my experience, the West Point Ring is most useful for identifying who exactly is holding the phone under the stall wall, filming you while you take a shit. There’s only one freak out there more obsessed with rings than a West Pointer:

West Point enforces a strict caste system based upon rank, much like the Army itself, only unlike the actual Army, none of the cadets have any real experience or accomplishments, so it’s based entirely upon class. This applies to the football team, as they are all cadets first. Keep an ear out Saturday for the QB calling the receivers “sir,” the RBs calling the QB “sir,” and the TEs calling the QB by his first name as they’re all in the same class. It can be very confusing, which is why the school sticks to the quintuple option offense to minimize plays and audibles.

Famous Alumni:

A very exciting list of alumni this week, starting off with U.S. presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Other head of state alums include President of the Confederate States of America, traitor Jefferson Davis, and Nicaraguan dictator and death-squad leader, Anastasio Somoza. As a testament to the academy’s honor and commitment to valor and fidelity, other graduates include traitors, white supremacists, and Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Stonewall Jackson, George Pickett, John Bell Hood, and J.E.B. Stuart.

Alums in current government service include Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI), U.S. Representatives John Shimkus (IL), Geoff Davis (KY), Brett Guthrie (KY) and Warren Davidson (OH), CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. McMaster is notable for his famous and widely touted doctoral thesis, which was turned into the book Dereliction of Duty. In the book, McMaster argued that the lead generals of the Vietnam War were derelict in their duties by not challenging President Lyndon Johnson when his preferred strategies were not working. The general who literally wrote the book on the military’s obligation to challenge civilian leaders when wartime strategy is lacking seems like the perfect fit for a White House renowned for its inhabitant’s ability to accept constructive criticism and to not lash out like a diaper-baby when challenged by a simple disagreement.

Other notable West Point alums include journalist and biographer Paula Broadwell, best known for sleeping with her subject and fellow alum, General David Petraeus. If you have ever watched the history channel you may have heard of Generals Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, Hap Arnold, John Pershing, Matthew Ridgeway, Maxwell Taylor, William Westmoreland, Creighton Abrams, and Eric Shinseki. Essentially, any famous Army general likely attended West Point, as the Army is truly a meritocracy.

Black Knights currently in the NFL (1 total):

Alejandro Villanueva, OT, Pittsburgh

Only one Black Knight currently makes his living on the professional football field, and that’s Alejandro Villanueva of the vile Pittsburgh Steelers. The Army is notoriously stingy about letting their cadets out of active duty contracts to pursue an NFL career, unlike the Naval Academy, which will let midshipmen join the reserves if drafted. At West Point Villanueva played LT, DL, and WR. He served on active duty as an infantry officer with the 10th Mountain Division and the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, deploying three times to Afghanistan and earning the Bronze Star for valor.

By all accounts he’s a great guy, but when you accept a job with the Steelers, you forfeit all benefits of the doubt. He’s the guy most likely to be referenced by dickhead announcers during the NFL’s absurd “Salute to Service” week with the chintzy white-trash camo gear; and really, during any Steelers game. I’m sympathetic to the announcers’ plight of trying to find good things to say about players on a squad staffed by rapists, nincompoops, cheap-shot artists (see James Harrison above), wife beaters (see James Harrison above), conmen and the feeble-minded, but goddamn we get it, NFL — Villanueva’s a veteran. Can we please move on?

Noteworthy Players:

Jordon Asberry, RB
Taylor Vessel, DB
Chris Carter, QB
Rhyan England, DB
Jordon Blackman, WR
Malik McGue, RB
James Natchigal, LB
Javhari Bourdeau, DB
Connor Slomka, RB
Zack Boobas, S
Darnell Woolfolk, RB
Chambo Liddell-Patacsil, RB
Kjetil Cline, RB


Here’s how I stand for the year:

Indiana: Predicted 42-24 Buckeyes; Actual 49-21
Oklahoma: Predicted 31-24 Buckeyes; Actual 31-16, Sooners

It appears that the shameful walloping by Clemson last season was not a fluke but the culmination of a trend many smarter people than I have been pointing out for a while now: the Buckeyes continues to change offensive coordinators and players, but the offense has remained stagnant and anemic against peer-level teams. What has not changed is Urban Meyer continues to have final say on the offense, and JT Barrett has remained the starter. I’m not 100 percent sure I want to see Barrett benched, but I do believe Meyer needs to relinquish offensive control to Kevin Wilson and let him run his own offense.

They need to stop trying to force the deep ball when JT cannot make the reads, the receivers cannot get open, and neither party appears to trust each other. The Buckeyes have two world-class backs in Dobbins and Weber, yet they run Barrett more. It’s insane. Let’s run the god damn ball, open up some intermediate routes, and get this thing moving. JT is great, but he’s no Tim Tebow, and Urban Meyer appears hell-bent on recreating that dynamic. Unfortunately for us all, he doesn’t have the personnel for it.

Anyway, for this week’s matchup with Army, I predict the Buckeyes get the win, 49-21. Army’s offense is built to match up in the worst way against our defensive strengths, and if the Buckeyes just run Dobbins and Weber up the middle, we’ll easily get the W. However, I thought out illustrious coaching staff had learned this lesson in 2015 after losing to Michigan State, so you never know. Hell, if I was Jeff Monken I’d come out challenging the Buckeyes secondary immediately and see how that goes. Everyone else seems to have figured that out.

That’s it for this week. Stay safe, eat a well-balanced meal before you start drinking on game day, don’t smoke in the house, and we’ll see you here next week!