Monday, November 5, 2018

Flashback: Lafayette-Army, 2016

Rachel Robertson, who followed the Lafayette football team for The Lafayette newspaper, accompanied me to the Leopards’ locker room after the team’s 62-7 blowout loss to Army West Point back in October of 2016.

She had no idea what she was walking into. Neither did I.

Coach Frank Tavani, who supposedly had time to cool off, came into the room and, when I said, “I don’t know where to start,” that was all he needed. He was hot, not cool.

“Where you start is, we stunk; we got an ass whooping out there like I’ve never been involved in and it looked like we didn’t want to play. It’s disgusting and embarrassing. You want me to say anything more than that? Next question.”  It almost seemed like a dare.

I used that quote high in my game story for The Morning Call. I figured that, coming on the heels of a two-game stretch in which his team gave up 1,053 yards rushing and 120 points, and with a losing streak going to six games, Tavani deserved to blow off the steam.

Rachel was shocked. I was, too. It wasn’t the Tavani had had come to know since coming on to the beat as a freelance writer in 2009. He said lots more than I have quoted, but you get the picture.

Tavani was much quieter the following day, but he wasn’t totally over it. His only regret may have been that “that poor girl from the student paper” had to feel the wrath. “I snapped and that was the end of it,” he said.

Why bring that up now? Well, the Leopards are headed back to Michie Stadium on Saturday to face the Cadets. The juniors and seniors on the team can’t help but remember 2016. And for Tavani, it wasn’t all about the football game.

That sea of white behind the Leopards is the Corps of Cadets.

A day at Michie is special for spectators. The cadets march into the stadium and they sit together in the stands behind the visiting bench. As regimented and disciplined as they can be much of the time, they’re still a bunch – a big bunch – of college kids, and they know how to have a good time.

Often, that's at the expense of the visiting team. Some of their comments can be funny; some can be nasty. All can be distracting for visiting players on the sidelines. And football players are supposed to be into the game, not the shenanigans in the stands.Tavani noticed that some of his players were engaging the cadets. That was a no-no. 

Tavani, of course, is no longer the head coach at Lafayette. I don’t know at this moment if John Garrett has ever been on the visitors’ side at Michie. He definitely has not been there as a head coach. I’ll ask him tomorrow.

If he hasn’t, I’ll suggest he talk with his four captains about what they might expect from the people in a uniform other than the one the Black Knights will be wearing.

There will be a strong U-S-A flavor on Saturday. The crowd the last time was over 38,000. Very few of those people were rooting for Lafayette. The Leopards are the enemy, and the Corps of Cadets and the Army West Point fans are weapons coach Jeff Monken will use to his benefit.

I don’t know of anyone who thinks Lafayette can win, or even challenge, the Knights. Many think the game should not even be on the schedule. Especially the week before Lafayette-Lehigh No. 154. Those fans wonder who might NOT be playing against Lehigh because of an injury suffered against an Army team that will take no prisoners.

In 2016, Army used three quarterbacks. They accounted for 259 yards rushing. Each scored a TD. The third one drove the final nail into the coffin when he ran 41 yards with less than three minutes left.

Asked about Army after Saturday’s 40-14 loss to Holy Cross, Coach Garrett, asked to comment about the Knights, said, “Well, Army’s our next game. We will practice and prepare for them as our next opponent. We’ll go back to work and get the team ready to play on Saturday.”

Army has won 17 now and 18 of 19 overall against the Leopards. But, no white flags will be waving from the visitors’ side at Michie.  



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