Jeff Monken

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CFT Previews: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

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WHO: Army (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-2)
WHAT: The 15th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
THE SKINNY: If you like running games, the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is for you this year. San Diego State rides into the bowl season with one of the nation’s top rushers in Rashaad Penny. On the other side of the field is Army’s signature option running game, led by quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw. Expect plenty of rushing yardage in this one.

Army is in a postseason bowl game for the second year in a row for the first time since 1984 and 1985. It’s been a long time coming for the Knights, who also look to reach the 10-win total for the first time since 1996. Jeff Monken has done a terrific job turning things around for the program, including having won back-to-back Army-Navy Games and securing the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since the mid-1990s.

The Aztecs certainly had a great year as well, but San Diego State fell short of being able to play for the Mountain West Conference championship. Despite a Heisman-worthy season from Penny and a signature win over Bryce Love and Stanford, San Diego State is hoping to cap another otherwise successful season under Rocky Long with a shot at finishing in the AP top 25 for the second season in a row. San Diego State can also win 11 games in a season for a third straight season, which would be a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the stability this program has achieved.

Army will be more likely to slowly pile up the offensive yardage, but do not be shocked if Penny breaks free for some quick long gains.

THE PICK: San Diego State 34, Army 28

Army on cusp of rare back-to-back bowl seasons for first time since 1984-85

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Army is taking on Temple on Saturday afternoon with a chance to punch the first postseason bowl ticket of the 2017 season. Other teams may already be bowl eligible, but Army will be the first team to have a chance to accept an invitation to a bowl game on Saturday if they can manage to get by the Temple Owls.

Army has a spot waiting for them in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth as long as they are bowl-eligible this season. At 5-2, the Black Knights can start making their bowl plans as soon as they win one more game. If they do clinch their bowl eligibility on Saturday, it will be the first time Army will go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1984 and 1985 seasons. Army played in and won the short-lived Cherry Bowl in the 1984 season and the Peach Bowl in the 1985 season. After going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl last season for their first bowl trip since the 2010 season, Jeff Monken and his program are looking to make going to a bowl game a regular thing.

Army defeated Temple in the season opener a year ago, and Monken is aware that can be a motivating factor for Temple despite these Owls being a much different team from the AAC champions of last season.

”This is a tough football team that won their conference last year,” Monken said. ”They’ll have a ton of confidence and they feel as though they have to come in and win this game. We had the chance to come out with a win at their place, and I’m sure they’d love to return the favor.”

Monken took over the Army football program in 2014 after a successful run as head coach of Georgia Southern, then a powerhouse FCS program. His run at Army took a couple of years to get going, but Army has shed their losing ways under his watch, and that was highlighted by a long-awaited victory over Navy in last season’s Army-Navy Game. Picking up a win against Temple will continue to prove Army is continuing to improve as a program, and that also means Monken will potentially be finding himself on the radar in the coaching rumor mill. The Nebraska job has had some people mentioning Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, but perhaps Monken would be a name to keep an eye on as well. As long as that means Army is winning games, so be it.

Keep in mind this would not be the first time Army would have back-to-back bowl eligible seasons since the mid-1980s. The Knights have had winning seasons on multiple occasions since last going to back-to-back bowl games, but the bowl game picture was quite different in the 1980s than it is today. With an oversaturation of bowl games available to schools today, Army stands a much better chance of going to a bowl game this season even with just six or seven wins than they would have 30 years ago.

Army adds receivers coach to staff from Ball State

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Just a little under two weeks ago Army lost a running back coach. Today they added a wide receivers coach to the staff. Keith Gaither has joined the coaching staff in West Point following four years at the same position with Ball State.

“Keith brings not only playing experience but also coaching and teaching experience as well and that is important,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said in a released statement Thursday. “We are excited to have Keith join our staff and for him to have the spring to work with our wide receivers and all of our players. He has coached in bowl games and will be a great addition to the staff. “

Gaither brings 19 years of coaching experience with him to West Point, and Army hopes his experience will mesh well with what is expected to be a veteran receiver group in 2015. Army was 125th in the nation (out of 125 programs) in passing offense in 2015, so there is plenty of room for improvement for the run first, second and third Black Knights.

Army returns Edgar Poe, last season’s leading receiver (199 yards and one touchdown), along with DeAndre Bell and John Trainor. Xavier Moss has switched positions from receiver last year to defensive back this spring. Last season with Ball State, Gaither coached Jordan Williams (753 yards, six touchdowns) and KeVonn Mabon (717 yards, five touchdowns). Both were among the top receivers in the MAC.

Navy extends win streak in 115th meeting with Army

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Thirteen games and counting.

The 115th edition of Army-Navy ended the same way the previous 12 meetings did…with the Midshipmen defeating the Black Knights.

Saturday’s meeting at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, appeared to be a step in the right direction for Army despite a 17-10 loss. It’s the third time in the past four years the game was decided by only one score.

During his first year as Army’s head coach, Jeff Monken put a team on the field that nearly played Navy to a standstill. Army amassed more rushing yards than Navy — the NCAA’s top rushing team — until the final seconds of the game. Navy only had one more first down during the contest. And 50 yards of total offensive separated the two teams.

Army dominated the first quarter and a half. The Black Knights built an early 7-0 lead when wide receiver Xavier Moss returned a block punt seven yards for a touchdown.

In the end, a crucial fourth-down stop with two minutes remaining in the second quarter proved to be the turning point of the game.

After Navy stopped Army quarterback Angel Santiago from gaining one yard, momentum swung in the Midshipmen’s favor and it came courtesy of the right arm of quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

During the ensuing drive, Reynolds was 3-for-3 passing and connected with sophomore wide receiver Jamir Tillman for a nine-yard touchdown with only 18 seconds before halftime.

Reynolds finished the game 6-of-8 passing for 77 yards plus 100 rushing yards. The deciding score came early in the fourth quarter when Reynolds plunged into the end zone for a rushing touchdown.

With the victory, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo became the first Navy coach to start his career 7-0 against Army, and he passed George Welsh (1973-81) as the winningest coach in Navy history.

The gap may have been closed by Monken and his Black Knights, but the Midshipmen will enjoy another year of bragging rights before Army gets another chance to end the current streak.

Navy AD fires shot at Army as Army-Navy Game approaches

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The week before every Army Navy Game there is a special luncheon for media and representatives from both the Army and Navy football teams. Coaches and select players attend the luncheon for a unique opportunity to meet with the media in the build-up to the annual rivalry game. This year the game is moving down I-95 from Philadelphia to Baltimore, so the luncheon scheduled for today was hosted by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Navy showed up, but Army was unable to make it.

Fog prevented Army’s scheduled attendees to make the trip down to Baltimore, which led Navy Athletics Director Chet Gladchuk to issue a public apology to the media. He could not resist the opportunity to share a Navy slogan, “No excuses, nobody cares.”

“It’s just unfortunate that they could not find a way to be here to be as respectful to you all as you’ve been to us, to make it down I-95 or whatever it takes to speak a little bit to the importance of this game,” Gladchuk said, according to The Capital Gazette. “I don’t speak for Army, I don’t intend to speak for Army, I’ll never speak for Army, but I need to speak for the athletic directors who were very instrumental in bringing this contest to this facility and this city and I feel I owe you, at a minimum, an apology for the other contingent not being here.”

Army head coach Jeff Monken did speak with the media via a spur-of-the-moment press conference.

This year’s Army Navy Game will be played Saturday, December 13 in M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Navy has won 12 straight meetings against army, and 14 of the last 15.