Edgar Allan Poe’s timeless line from “The Raven” portrays a bird driving the narrator mad. In another time, the literary genius might have written of a West Pointer driven nuts by Army’s current losing streak to Navy.
Poe, most likely you were unaware, was a West Point Cadet until he was kicked out of the academy in 1831. He died in 1848 long before the first Army-Navy Game was played in 1890, so he was spared the anguish of even one such defeat.
His literary skills, though, might have been tested to describe the darkness of Army’s unprecedented 13 straight defeats entering the 116th Army-Navy Game. This year’s edition matches the No. 21-ranked Midshipmen (9-2) and the Black Knights (2-9) Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
We do know, however, what Edgar Allen Poe the West Point football player thinks (ignore the different spelling to the middle name). The junior wide receiver from Tucson (Az.) Cienega that leads the Black Knights in catches says his teammates believe they can write the death of the streak.
“It’s only an upset to those who don’t believe it’s a possibility,” Poe said. “They have had some success; they are a good team. But we don’t think a win is out of reach. That’s not the mindset in our locker room. We’re ready for this game, no question.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is listed as Edgar Poe on the Army roster, but he embraces the full name, adding it is Edgar Allen Poe Jr.
“I’ve asked my grandfather at least 10 times how he named my father,” Poe said, “and he’s given me a different answer each time.”
With the poetry of Poe’s NFL body, he has ability to pull receptions away from defenders. He represents closing the gap between not only Navy but also Air Force. Army’s service academy rivals have rosters featured more NFL bodies, even if they’re not NFL talent. Former Army coach Andy Guyader gained Poe’s commitment under former head coach Rich Ellerson, who started the recruiting trend before he was let go, largely due to failing to beat Navy. Head coach Jeff Monken, seeking his first win over Air Force or Navy in his second season, has continued the recruiting emphasis.
The 2012 Army-Navy Game was a painful example of size difference. The Black Knights were on the verge of ending the Midshipmen’s win streak until Navy wide receiver Brandon Turner, a 6-4, 222-pounder, caught a 49-yard pass from then-freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Army’s defensive back had the play covered, but Reynolds placed the ball high where only Turner could catch it. The gain set up the game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown of Navy’s 17-13 comeback victory.
Poe has just 11 receptions for 320 yards, but he’s averaging 29.1 yards per catch and five have gone for touchdowns from three quarterbacks. He’s providing the chunk gains Army has lacked.
He scored on a 27-yarder from Ahmad Bradshaw against Fordham; a 10-yarder from Bradshaw against Eastern Michigan; a 68-yard game-winning score in the fourth quarter from A.J. Schurr against Bucknell; an 11-yarder from Bradshaw versus Tulane; and a 65-yarder from Chris Carter versus Rutgers.
Army plays in a triple-option offense to account partially for low receptions, but Navy and Air Force also run triple-option offenses with better numbers. Navy’s leading receiver, Jamar Tillman (6-4, 206), has 22 catches for 468 yards and four touchdowns. Air Force has two players with 20-plus receptions: Garrett Brown (5-9, 180) and Jalen Robinette (6-4, 215).
Army’s quarterback play hasn’t helped. Bradshaw, a sophomore, was off to a promising start until plagued by injuries from mid-season on. Carter, a freshman, started the most recent game against Rutgers. He ran for 111 yards and a touchdown and completed 4 of 6 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown.
“We are a run-first team, but I think coach Davis (offensive coordinator Brent Davis) has had more confidence in our quarterbacks and more confidence in me later in the season,” Poe said. “Chris did an excellent job for his first career start. I try to perform when my number is called.”
The Black Knights believe they are better than their record. They started the year 1-4 with the losses by a combined 16 points before mid-season 44-3 defeat at home to then-ranked Duke. Army rebounded to beat Bucknell 21-14, but the next four losses were to Rice, 38-31; Air Force, 20-3; Tulane, 34-31; and Rutgers, 31-21.
With Army’s optimism despite facing despair, the football Poe might find some works from the poet Poe to inspire the Black Knights.
“I didn’t understand how big of a deal my name is until around middle school,” Poe said. “My father had me read his pieces of works. I used to not like it because people made fun of it, but I began to understand his contributions to the literary world. It’s an honor to have the name. Make fun of it if you want to, but I like it. There is no way you can tell me otherwise.”
He began to recite Poe’s work in middle school. His favorite is “Annabel Lee,” a poem about death and a beautiful woman.
This week the story before the football player Poe and his teammates is the death of Navy’s winning streak.
Quoth the Raven Nevermore.