A Youtube video making the Internet rounds features Rice offensive tackle Calvin Anderson solving a Rubik’s Cube — behind his back. It’s impressive, but it’ll be nothing if Jeff Monken solves the Rubik’s Cube that is Army football.
The Black Knights’ third-year head coach is on his way to having one side of squares in place with an impressive season-opening victory. Army won 28-13 over Temple, the AAC East defending champion coming off a double-digit-win season (10-4).
That has raised eyebrows more than any other win since the Black Knights’ most recent bowl season, a 7-6 campaign in 2010.
Next up is Army’s home opener against Rice (0-1) and Anderson — the Rubic master — on Saturday at Michie Stadium hard by the Hudson River.
It might be hard to appreciate, but the Temple victory is much more significant than merely 1-0 start from a team that went 2-10 a year ago.
If the winning trend continues, it can be looked back upon as a turning point. It was Army’s first win at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field since the stadium opened in 2003. The Black Knights had lost 10 straight to Navy at Lincoln and 13 overall, including three previous Temple losses.
Army football being unable to win in the city that is the traditional home to the Army-Navy Game is like the Green Bay Packers failing to score at Lambeau Field. It’s not the same without the Lambeau Leap.
“The thing that I was probably most pleased with was that at no point in the game did I feel that our players lacked the confidence to win,” Monken said. “That they were concerned or worried about what might happen next. I think that they just continued to play, continued to battle and that was good to see.”
Army still has a young roster, but the sophomores and juniors have gained experience despite seasons of 2-10 in 2015 and 4-8 in 2014. They played ahead of older players because of Monken’s confidence in their talent.
“I think that helped us,” Monken said of confidence.
“When we got into those situations, where we had the punt partially blocked, and then held them to a field goal. I thought that was a great job by our defense.”
The offense, led by junior Ahmad Bradshaw, trailed 10-7 at halftime but scored three second-half TDs.
Bradshaw started his second straight season opener, although he was in and out of the lineup from midseason on with injuries. Chris Carter, who started twice last year, adds to the talent and experience Army has lacked.
“Offensively, with the exception of (freshman offensive lineman) Jaxson Denton, who played some, everyone who was an offensive lineman has started a game here in their career,” Monken said. “You have Ahmad, who has started games, the slotbacks have all started games, Edgar Poe and there are some guys with some experience.”
Rice is trying to bounce back from allowing 552 passing yards in a 46-14 loss to Western Kentucky. Rice gave up 97 rushing yards on 30 plays. Army’s triple-option offense, though, doesn’t have the passing skills Western Kentucky utilizes.
Army with a 2-0 start is Step 2 toward aligning that one side of the Rubic squares, but it’s only a beginning.
Other sides are ending a 14-game losing streak to Navy, winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996, and advancing to a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
Calvin Anderson can’t solve that puzzle, but Jeff Monken is working toward it.
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter: @shanny4055