We’ve got to take it one game at a time, but if we project our sight any further than the opening kickoff we have no chance of executing our game plan, and you have to realize that we’ve discerned from our films that our worthy opponent is as good a team as any we’ve faced since the discovery of fire.
Or something like that.
Cliches are as inherent to sports as sand to a beach, but no more so than in football, where they serve as the lifeblood of any pre- or post-game conversation. And were there national rankings in the invocation of cliches, Army coach Rich Ellerson would surely rank in the Top 10.
They’re harmless, of course. The idea, ultimately, is not to offend your opponent, but at the same time not leave your own team at any sort of mental competitive disadvantage. If a Division III college team were about to play the Steelers, the coach, while giving the required kudos to Pittsburgh, would still find a way to squeeze in a couple of reminders that his team still had a fighting chance if they stayed focused and kept their composure and realized that NFL players put their cleats on one foot at a time. Or something like that.
Herewith, some recent, all-weather, steel-belted-radial cliches that do justice to their presenters:
Ellerson, prior to the Black Knights game against VMI this past Saturday: “Every week’s another adventure. Just to revisit our goals — our first goal is to win the next game, so that’s where we are right now. Any step back and overview that we allowed ourselves last week is ancient history now. We’re 100 percent focused on this next opportunity. Of course, we have our keys to victory all over the building, but if we do what we do, that’s all we’re trying to get at.”
Army didn’t lose its keys, defeating VMI 29-7.
Ellerson, following the victory over VMI: “We weren’t thinking about the scoreboard. We were thinking about the next play or the next snap. That’s one of the challenges as a football team that we have. We get in those situations where you’re like ‘How do we handle this?’ You handle it by clearing and staying in the moment and playing the next play and turn the scoreboard off. Look up at the scoreboard when that sucker’s over.”
The scoreboard did remain on, but Army clearly stayed in the moment without being suckered.
However, the Black Knights’ coach has plenty of competition to qualify for that national ranking:
Tulane coach Bob Toledo just prior to his team’s upcoming four-game homestand last week: “All four of them are good football teams, and it’s never easy to win four in a row. We haven’t done that since we’ve been here. We’re taking it as a one-game schedule. We’re playing SMU and we have to try and beat SMU. If we can do that, then we’ll look forward to the next game. It’s nice in that we are home. We’re home in our stadium in our confines with our friends, family and fans.”
Guess their confines were not as friendly as he hoped. SMU beat Tulane 31-17.
Citadel coach Kevin Higgins, following his team’s 20-0 loss to Georgia Southern Oct. 23: “They are hearing the correct messages from their teammates. They believe and they keep working at it. My heart goes out to the team because I want them to experience some success which will propel them to the next level, but we need to keep searching, grinding, and doing the right things at the right times.”
What’s tougher, searching or grinding?
Oregon coach Chip Kelly, about USC prior to this past Saturday’s game: “It’s about how hard they play. It’s about their athleticism. That’s the biggest challenge.”
Challenges aren’t what they used to be. Oregon won 53-32.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, following his team’s 44-20 victory over Western Michigan Oct. 16: “They are learning every day, and this is a great learning experience for them to say, ‘Hey, we have got to come out and play disciplined football. We have got to play with great enthusiasm, because we are not good enough to play any other way.’ ”
Kelly, following his team’s 35-17 loss to Navy one week later: “We got beat today. We got beat by the better football team today.”
So much for discipline and enthusiasm.
Iowa coack Kirk Ferentz, prior to his team’s season-opening game against Eastern Illinois: “They are a well-coached football team, disciplined and they play hard. We expect a very tough contest. “
Iowa won, 37-7. Tough.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno, following his team’s 24-3 loss to Iowa Oct. 2: “They’re a good, solid football team. They hustle, they’re well coached, and that’s what happened. You gotta beat them. They don’t beat themselves.”
Yeah, that’s the way it usually works.
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson, prior to this past Saturday’s game against California: “We’ve got five games left, starting with this one and I’ve said this is a very resilient group and we’ll see how resilient this week. To me California is as good of a team as there is in our league, and regardless of what has happened so far, talent-wise, they have a lot of talent. We’ve got an opportunity. We’ve got an opportunity to go out, play at home and re-prove ourselves. That’s how this league is. We’re not the only one that has suffered some kind of setback like this in our league. There are other teams that have had that happen to them. How you react to that setback is the key, not the setback itself. Learn from it, react to it and see where you’re at.”
Arizona State didn’t react well nor were particularly resilient, getting set back 50-17.
Purdue coach Joe Tiller, prior to his team’s 24-13 victory over Ball State Sept. 18: “No matter what you tell them as coach, they’re still going to formulate their own opinions. Once again they’ll form their own opinion and I think that they’ll see them put those points up and that should get their attention fairly quickly.”
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, following his team’s 53-13 victory over Presbyterian Sept. 2: “We need to work on the mental part as much as anything. We made too many mistakes. We need to look at ourselves a little bit as coaches and see if we’re asking them to do too many things. With our effort, we thought we flew around pretty good, but we just made too many mistakes.”
Uh, care to check out that final score again, coach?
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, prior to this past Thursday’s game against North Carolina State: “We had a good practice. I thought we’ve practiced well…we’ve just got to go play well. Sometimes on an off week, the big thing is you practice too much. I mean, you’re ready to play. You’re tired of practice. You’ve got to remember the game time and get your preparation and get it done.”
Good practices aren’t what they used to be. The Seminoles lost 28-24.
So, to sum up, let’s make sure we’re on the same page so as not to compromise our strategy, which we can only assume our opponent has intimate knowledge of because you have to figure one of their assistant coaches broke into our lockerroom sometime during the week in a clear effort to undermine the manner in which our alumni perceive our program, thus putting a dent in their annual contributions and endowments, which can have a devestating effect upon the manner in which we can recruit players that will enable us to exhibit the pride in our institution to which we’ve all become accustomed.
Or something like that.