Why Army football values the opportunity to face an SEC school in the Armed Forces Bowl

·5 min read
Army players stand for the West Point alma mater after a 17-13 loss to Navy in the 122nd Army-Navy game.
Army players stand for the West Point alma mater after a 17-13 loss to Navy in the 122nd Army-Navy game.

The last time Army faced a Southeastern Conference team on the gridiron, Missouri was in the Big 12 Conference.

That 2011 regular-season showdown against Vanderbilt ended in a loss for the Black Knights, and no SEC team since then has faced the FBS service academy from West Point, New York.

Army's last victory over an SEC team was in 2009, against the Commodores in overtime. Coincidentally, that year was also the last time Missouri faced a service academy, a loss in the Texas Bowl to Navy.

Rich DeMarco called those pair of games for Army against Vanderbilt as the Black Knights' radio play-by-play voice. He also serves as an associate athletic director in West Point.

DeMarco talked with the Tribune about the Black Knights' bowl game against Missouri, Army's triple-option offense and more on this week's episode of the Mizzou Sports Podcast.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

More: How to watch Mizzou football vs. Army in the Armed Forces Bowl game

Eric Blum: Besides being a service academy and running the triple-option offense, what can you tell us about this year's Army team?

Rich DeMarco: "It's an Army team that likes to run the football, as I'm sure that you've seen, from the option running attack and what they've done historically. And they're a team that's really prided itself under Jeff Monken since 2014, his first year as coach, of not making mental mistakes and that being the biggest margin that they're able to gain over their opponents. It's hardly going to be a situation where Army's going to have the more talented team or the team that has more recruiting stars on their players. But it's a team that just lives by its system and doesn't make mistakes and runs the football at a high level, using the flexbone triple option, which has been so successful over the years, and really an aggressive defense led by one of the top pass-rushers in the nation, Army's single-season leader for sacks in a season, Andre Carter, who has had an All-American year, named third-team All-American by The Associated Press. It's been a special year for this Army team. Of course, not winning against Navy, that's the biggest game of the year for Army, it's one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports, but I think it's just a great opportunity to be able to go to a bowl game. As Jeff Monken will say, that's something you always can never take for granted. It's something a lot of teams don't get to experience. I think it's a great way to finish the season strong. It's the first time since 2010 that Army will be at a bowl game when not defeating Navy. I almost think it makes, in some ways, the bowl game more important because there's more opportunity to finish the season strong and finish out with a win, to have a good taste in your mouth."

EB: What's Army's view of having the rare occasion to play an SEC school, and specifically Missouri?

RD: "I think it's just a great opportunity when you look to the potential bowl matchups. If you're Army and you don't get an opportunity to play as many Power Five Conference teams as you would love to play, of course. Army is supposed to play Tennessee next year. They played Vanderbilt in the past. But to have an opportunity to play a school out of the Southeastern Conference, a name that everyone knows, I think it makes it even more exciting for us that cover Army and get a chance to watch this team play."

EB: Is there anything different about this year's offense compared to past triple options?

RD: "I think it's more so this is what the team runs and you go with it. I think the offense will be maybe tweaked to the specific abilities at the quarterback position. Christian Anderson can throw the ball pretty well. We've seen a lot of shotgun from Army the past couple of years throwing the football. It's a function of utilizing the talents of the quarterbacks to the best of their abilities. So we'll see a little more shotgun. Anderson will throw into the shotgun, even Tyhier Tyler might run out of the shotgun, throw a little bit. We saw a lot of shotguns last week from Navy. So it's definitely a tweak that you've seen come into the triple option of the academies the past few years."

EB: Army is no stranger to the Armed Forces Bowl. What should first-timers from Missouri expect out of the atmosphere of the game?

RD: "This is Army's third time playing the game in Fort Worth. We played it once in Dallas in 2010. ... It's been a great experience. You look at TCU, and that's one of the most beautiful stadiums in all of college football. You go through it, from the premium areas to the seating areas, to the press box, it's one of the nicest stadiums you're going to experience. Fort Worth is a great city. It's also a place where there's a lot of Army fans. There's a lot of West Point graduates, a lot of Army bases, people in the Army, and there's always been a great representation of fans that are coming out to cheer on Army and West Point when we've been out there."

EB: How do you think the game plays out Wednesday night?

RD: "All the Army bowl games have really been close, really with the exception of the 70-14 win over Houston the last time Army was in the Armed Forces Bowl. Every single Army bowl game has been razor-thin close. Just look back at the history of Army and bowl games. I think this will be close and I think Army will take it by a field goal in the fourth quarter."

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Why Army and Mizzou are looking forward to the Armed Forces Bowl

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