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After Duke loss, Army needs to shift focus on rivals

Army lost this game early, but now they have to focus on beating Air Force and Navy. Nothing else matters.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The confidence surrounding the Army Black Knights after going toe-to-toe with the Penn State Nittany Lions was high. So high that it was hard to think that Army's defense wouldn't keep them in the game again.

Well, the defense tried and held on for as long as they could, but the mistakes on offense were just too much for the Black Knights as they fell to the Duke Blue Devils 44-3.

The game really got away from Army when head coach Jeff Monken decided to go for a fourth and inches (the second fourth down call of the drive) in Black Knights territory. Senior quarterback A.J. Schurr was injured on the previous play and was replaced by sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw.

Monken called for a halfback toss and the play was immediately blown up by the Duke defense. Bradshaw's pitch sailed into the backfield with no one to catch it and a scramble for the ball commenced. It didn't matter who recovered it anyway.

Duke easily scored with the ridiculously short field to go up 10-0. That's not good, but it wasn't quite the end,

On Army's next possession, Bradshaw mishandled the snap from senior center Matt Hugenberg. Duke recovered the fumble and scored another touchdown with the short field.

From then on, the game was over. Duke continued to do whatever it wanted on offense and snuffed out the Cadets' triple option attack.

So Army loses their third straight at West Point and falls to 1-5. A season that was supposed to start off with a bang is circling the drain. They'll have a chance to capture their first home win again next week against FCS-opponent Bucknell.

Army has to win that game. They cannot lose a second time to a FCS opponent this season.

But more to the point. Army's season only exists now to accomplish two things: beat Air Force and beat Navy.

For the next four weeks, that's what their games against Bucknell and Rice should be about. The Black Knights need to just correct whatever they can to give themselves a chance against Air Force. Then spend their games against Tulane and Rutgers readying themselves for Navy.

At this point, those are the only games with meaning. Army fans would rather lose the rest of their games but beat Air Force and Navy than do the exact opposite.

And the Cadets have quite a bit of work to do to before the Falcons welcome them.

Get Bradshaw healthy and help him get his confidence back. Or stick with A.J. Schurr and give him the keys to the offense. Either way, figure out who the starting quarterback is and let them run the offense without having to look over their shoulder.

Do whatever you can to ensure ball security. Army's fumbled practically every game away. They cannot give away the game come Nov. 7 in Colorado Springs.

Start making better decisions on special teams. No one should be calling for fair catches at the five yard line.

With any delusion of grandeur concerning a bowl bid gone, it's time to refocus on the only things that can make Army's season a "success." That all starts in four weeks.

Right now there's only one objective: beat Air Force.