September 9, 2010

Army host Hawaii: Losing not an option

If this is going to be the season when Army football charges the hill and begins its quest to retake its place in college football lore, the bugle has to sound Saturday. At high noon.

If this team is going to achieve its goal of bowl eligibility, this is a game it absolutely must win. Not being completely focused, not playing guts-out on every play, not finding a way to win?

Not an option.

Let's face it, for Army to finish even .500 it needs to win this game, win next week again at home against North Texas, win at Duke the following week, then win at Tulane and beat VMI at Michie.

Army will no doubt be underdogs to Temple and Rutgers, so the plan of attack at this point is quite clear.

The one thing the Black Knights do not want to do is face the final third of the season still needing a win to finish 6-6. That would mean having to either pick off Air Force, Kent State on the road, or upset Notre Dame or Navy.

The Warriors have traveled 5,000 miles to reach Black Knight country, and in truth they could not have picked a worse time.

Saturday is September 11th or as the 2007 graduating class' motto goes … "Always Remember, Never Surrender".

If that isn't enough to throw into the face of Army, the game is being played just a little more than an hour away from Manhattan. And the dagger, especially still so deep in the hearts of people in the Metropolitan area, can only add to the motivation of Army's attempt to impose their will on the visitors from the Pacific.

Saturday is "Salute to Heroes Day'' at Michie Stadium - a fitting theme along the Hudson.

Special rates have been provided for all firefighters, all police officers and emergency personnel, and the first 25,000 patrons will be given mini American Flags.

West Point officials are projecting a crowd of more than 30,000, which, given the atmosphere, might sound more like 60,000.

Fifteen first responders at the World Trade Centers will be in Black Knights Alley before the game to interact with the public. The group will also be represented during the coin toss, as well as being honored in a halftime ceremony. And of course the USMA band will perform.

And as the Black Knights sprint onto the field they will be carrying a 3-by-5-foot flag that was flown at Ground Zero.

Say what you want, but this day is as close as it gets to Army-Navy. Recent history will also float above Michie Stadium as Army tries to win its first two games of the season. That hasn't happened in 14 years.

If that concept is difficult to grasp, realize that Trent Steelman was in first grade in 1996. That was the last time Army played like its storied past. It won its first nine games before losing at Syracuse, and would finish 10-2 after giving Auburn all it could handle in the Independence Bowl.

It is only appropriate that Army players will be wearing the patch of the 25th Infantry Division in this game. Nicknamed "Tropic Lightning,'' the 25th ID is headquartered in Hawaii.

The division was formed in 1941, and after another memorable date, Dec. 7, the ID was moved to beach positions to defend Honolulu.

Army will be defending a very different version of Honolulu on Saturday, and defending in a very different way.

But as it was 59 years ago, failure is not an option.

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