Army football: Here's why the Black Knights are relieved to get their first victory

They kept saying the right things but the tone and facial expressions revealed another story.

Army dropped its first two football games of the season, and the prospect of the first 0-3 start in seven years weighed heavily on the players and coaching staff. Words like “desperate” began to be voiced ahead of the matchup with unbeaten Villanova.

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That all changed on Saturday. The Black Knights seized leads twice in the first quarter, and back-to-back interceptions in the second allowed Army to score again for some breathing room. Army grinded out two scoring drives in the third quarter while stiffening on defense to limit the Wildcats to just a field goal. And then Tyrell Robinson busted off a 73-yard punt return for a score early in the fourth and the Black Knights could finally take a deep breath with a 49-10 victory that could serve as a jumping-off point on the drive for a third consecutive bowl game.

“It was awesome, the excitement,’’ said freshman fullback Hayden Reed. “The locker room was electric.’’

“We had a disappointing first couple weeks,’’ said offensive lineman Sam Barczak, “but getting that win this past weekend and getting back on track and singing in the locker room, I think we’re all feeling really good.’’

“It’s certainly better than 0-3,’’ said linebacker Jimmy Ciarlo. “That’s what we worked for. It was one of coach (Jeff) Monken’s talking points going into the week: Are we going to lay our head on our pillow that night after the game (and) be oh-and-three or are we going to be 1-2? We decide.’’

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“It was definitely important for the team,’’ said defensive back Jabari Moore. “We talked all week about bouncing back from those two losses early in the season. I feel like it’s good going forward, getting some steam in our sails.’’

Army has its first bye week of the season but the team is prepping the same as it would had their been a game scheduled for Saturday. Instead, it will be a two-week prep time for Georgia State, which visits on October 1. The tough opening stretch includes an Oct. 8 visit to Wake Forest in the rematch of a wild 70-56 game at West Point last season.

“We don’t really change an approach or anything,’’ said Reed, who saw his first significant action following the leg injury to Jakobi Buchanan. “It’s still just an opportunity to get better without having to go out on Saturday and do it, just an extra week to get better.’’

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Coastal Carolina and Texas San Antonio both gouged Army’s defense with numerous double-digit gains; Army did much better against Villanova, cutting those huge plays in half. The Wildcats scored on only two of their 10 possessions.

“We played with a lot better fundamentals,’’ Ciarlo said. “Eyes were where they were supposed to be, hands were where they were supposed to be. We were doing a lot better job with our reads. Guys are watching more (scouting) film. We've been in each other's ears … everyone cares. Everyone is committed to this Brotherhood. Everybody wants to hold each other accountable, hold each other to the standard.’’

Linebacker Brett Gerena was genuinely excited about getting the win but he said the result was just one week.

“We’re always going to play as a team,’’ he said. That’s our main objective, trying to win games and trying to build the brotherhood. It felt good to get that first win out of the way but that can’t stop us right there. We have to keep on pushing.’’

kmcmillan@th-record.com

Twitter: @KenMcMillanTHR

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Army football: Why win over Villanova was important