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Mistakes cost Army the upset over Penn State

Despite five fumbles and untimely penalties, Army had this game.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A victory over Penn State wasn't expected by anyone viewing this game from the outside.

Army got dominated by Fordham and UCONN. No one thought they were going to beat Penn State.

Yet, there they were. On a full blown death march in Penn State territory down 20-14. A touchdown would have given the Black Knights their best victory in ages.

On third and five, the fullback up the gut is stuffed. It's four down territory. It has to be.

Head coach Jeff Monken chose to drop senior quarterback A.J. Schurr to pass. Why?

How does a team that runs 99.99 percent of the time and only attempted one pass all game make that play call?

Yes, that one play isn't the reason Army lost. Schurr had a first half from hell. He fumbled the ball three times and a pitch to slotback Jordan Asberry was slightly behind him, but Asberry just muffed and dropped it.

The Cadets had a chance to go up 14-13 in the third quarter. But a chop block penalty set the drive back.

Though captain and senior fullback Matt Gianchinta was in complete devastation mode on that drive. He posted two big runs prior to the penalty. Which begs the question, why not go to the outside when pushed back?

Sophomore slotback John Trainor turned in the best game of his career. His runs to the outside were the only things keeping the first half possessions moving and were still gaining big yards in the third quarter.

Why didn't Monken give Trainor the ball on that third quarter drive, especially when the team was pushed back by a penalty but near scoring position?

This just echoes the problems Army has had all season and throughout their near 20 years of ineptitude. Turnovers, penalties, bad play calls. They've been a disease with this football team for years.

Ah, what a story this would have been. Schurr going from goat to comeback leader, the defense shutting down a Penn State offense that should have walked all over them, Army beating a Power Five school for the first time since 2012 and the first time on the road since 2010. Doing all of it without their starting quarterback and missing a big chunk of their offensive line.

But that story doesn't get to be told. Because Army cannot overcome fumbles, penalties, and bad play calls. They could have risen above two, but not all three.

Instead, it goes down as one of those classic service academy near-upsets. A moral victory.

Army doesn't need any moral victories. They need wins. The academy and the program need wins like this against huge football schools.

Beating Penn State could have resurrected the Black Knights season. Suddenly, there would be confidence and Army would know they have the finish to beat big time football programs.

The Cadets will continue that search against Duke back at Michie Stadium next Saturday. But no matter how that game goes, it won't change the fact that Army had this game.

They had it.