Army 1-1

Friday, September 14, 2018

Awesome performance against Liberty from Army football's offense. By halftime Army had tested out 20 different ways to run the fullback. Just because play went through the fullback doesn't mean Army played in one dimension. There were an array of formations presented and the test for this game was clear: Can Army run the fullback out of every formation in their playbook. Looking at the production from the fullback spot, I would say Army passed that test.

Army showed precision and control in building a 17 - 0 halftime lead and by the end of the game Army held Liberty to just 18 and a half minutes of possession.

It is clear that the offense is comfortable operating out of multiple formations, and while the product from Saturday afternoon might seem like FB dive, FB dive, FB dive.... Army worked the fulcrum play of their offense masterfully out of a constellation of formations. Both Kelvin Hopkins and Luke Langdon got productive reps in, I think the dual QB actually helps apply pressure to tired defenses. It all has the look of a well managed offense, and the more I see the more it looks like the group is picking right up where they left off last year.

Army added in the shotgun split back package. It looked familiar and I was trying to identify where I had seeen it... it took me a few days to remember where I had seen the formation, it was one of the sets that Marcus Mariota ran in 2014 with the Oregon Ducks.
Against Liberty the QB follow went for big yardage, the veer package was used heavily, Rocket toss, there was the freeze package fullback run, the team went unbalanced, they used single wing, they had a few different plays from the shotgun Oregon package, they utilized the diamond, and also a spread formation series. Army pounded the fullback from pretty much every one of these formations, plus they operated the Oregon zone read out of shotgun AND the classic veer out of the flexbone. That's a staggering amount of offensive sets. Army switched between using tail motion and the straight up flexbone, they mixed in a QB twirl technique .
Having this team so well prepared that they're able to run the fullback out of every set and still have a chance to install the Oregon Read, and get the chance to work out both QBs, it just shows me that Army's play book is a lot bigger than I thought it was.

 Holding onto the football was nice too, turnovers really could have spoiled this one.

I have no questions about the potency of Army's offense and to see that the team had a handle on the fundamentals in game 2 with an absolute command of the fullback runs - when this playbook does in fact open up I think Army fans will be in for some thrills. I think we can expect to see the offense unfold from here and do more than hit the Fullback against Hawai'i.

Here are the Army / Liberty story, stats, highlights and replay.


Yearbook: Liberty University

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

We've got a timely addition to the yearbooks collection. Army's gridiron opponent this week Liberty U. has an online yearbook available.

This one is a nice collection with good pictures and a lot of fun content. I've had issues with Issuu's platform in the past, but these days Issuu works well enough, and the scans are clear and square. Liberty University's Selah yearbook is available online here. This collection of yearbooks includes volumes from 1973 through 2016.

You'll find pictures of past Liberty Flames football teams, cheerleaders galore, and some fairly sober football lore. Just check out this full page dedication to Lee "Rock" Royer, Liberty University's first head football coach - who took that position in 1973 and passed away in an airplane crash in November of that same year.

In fond remembrance.  Lee "Rock" Royer.

Stories like these make me appreciate online books and yearbooks and it's appropriate that football history like this is immortalized online in yearbooks like this.

It's another good addition to my yearbook collection, the Liberty University Selah.


It is the mission of The Unbalanced Line Online Library to present important and interesting historical texts to college football fans. Items will be added regularly as blog postings and can be easily indexed in the Yearbooks button on the site bar.

Copyrighted material is used expressly under the fair use guidelines of U.S. Code 17 #107 through #118 stating that the criticism, comment, news reporting, educational use or research of copyrighted material is not held in violation of copyright laws.

_______________ © 2018 The Unbalanced Line _______________

Army 0-1

Monday, September 3, 2018

On Saturday the Army football team traveled to Durham and lost to the Duke Blue Devils 34-14.

This one may have been more competitive if Army didn't drop 5 fumbles (losing 2 of  5), but there were some big problems with the team's execution that facilitated a road loss. On a significant percentage of Army's offensive plays you could see self inflicted errors, penalties that made for tough situations, missed assignments, or poor play calling.

It was strange seeing the Army team without a whole lot of polish to their game. Inexperience seemed to be a factor. There were penalties for movement on the line which we haven't seen much of in the last two years. There were missed tackles and missed blocks and even some of the schemes looked rusty against Duke.

 Give Duke a ton of credit, they have done well against the option in the last few years. The Blue Devils plugged up the middle, bottling up Army's fullbacks for 46 yards. On offense they were able to sustain significant pressure, even while experiencing some hiccups of their own early in the game.
There were times where I couldn't tell whether First-year starter Kelvin Hopkins was running a designed QB keeper down the line or running veer and making a read on the DE. Either way Duke generated constant backfield pressure at the end of the line and really put Army's rushing attack into a phone booth.

By the 2nd Quarter, Duke had settled in to their schemes and looked a lot more comfortable, particularly on offense. Both teams experienced adversity and, time and again, by luck or by skill, Duke solved the problem and moved the football, while Army had a difficult time generating good fortune.

One thing Army excelled at last year was seizing the day through their physical play and mental preparation. That same resilience wasn't apparent Saturday. There were mistakes and adversity, just as in any game, but Army's response was at best inconsistent and overall fell flat during the game's key moments. It seemed as if segments of the team realized that the game was out of reach at key points of the contest. That's just what it looked like to me. I am willing to bet that no one on the team actually thought that Duke's 10 or 17 point lead was insurmountable, but (again comparing to last year's team) - the 10-3 team was peppered with moments like those, and the 2017 team had the poise to make their own luck. 

Scheme-wise there were some things that didn't work. On defense we saw a couple of schemes that took the linebackers out of the middle - either flat across the line or a designed defensive clearout that left no one home in the event of a run play. Nothing wrong with showing something different on defense, but the one time they tried to drop out - they got zapped by a long run.

A couple of things made this game a little different than Army's recent memorable season openers. Against typical season opening cupcakes Army hasn't needed to go beyond page 4 of their playbook. This year Army showed a jaw-dropping number of plays in their first game. Pass plays, multiple formations, base offense plays, misdirection plays working off those base offensive plays.
If I recall, last year playing Fordham Army put up 64 points and ran something like a 4 play playbook. As the schedule played out - the team ventured deeper into their playlist making for a team that was hard to prepare for week-to-week. It was like they always had something else cooking for the next week.

I want to be clear here, because it may seem like a complaint that Army showed plays that, last year, we didn't see until game 5. This is a coaching staff who are proven champions and have shown that they are capable of coaching winning teams. On Friday, Army's opening night playbook consisted of  16 different run plays - 17 if you saw the Hopkins veer keeper as a designed QB run. The team featured three quarterbacks, multiple formations and a series of pass plays featuring play action, shotgun and unbalanced formations and experimenting with Kell Walker split out wide.

To me, the complexity Army showed on offense coupled with a full season's crop of self inflicted errors made me think that the team had focused on learning the variety of the playbook without mastering the foundation tactics on proverbial playbook pages 1 through 4. The team came in and it looked to me like they were not ready to run 16 plays out of multiple formations. Add in the mixed bag of pass plays and it's clear to see that Army had too many goods to deliver in one night.

That is only focusing on the offense. The defense experienced their own long stretches where they simply couldn't do anything to stop the Blue Devils.

It's tough to play Duke in the season opener. With Army's record in season openers it would seem natural to put a 1-AA team in the opening spot. I know it's tough to schedule out a season as an independent, and Army will have plenty of bites of the cupcake this year, but I think some of the flow is taken from the season when you have to dig 16 and 20 pages deep into the playbook in the first game. I'm definitely not used to seeing Army lose the first game of the year.

It really disturbs me when Duke football looks good.

Army/Duke story, stats, highlights and replay.


Duke/Army Game Notes

Friday, November 10, 2017

Army game notes (.pdf)

Duke game notes (.pdf)

One more chart of stats I liked was this one. 


Army 7-2

Army exorcised the demons in Colorado Springs on Saturday, and moved one step closer to the CIC trophy. Just by virtue of their being scheduled before the Army Navy game, Air Force had been the gatekeeper to the CIC trophy, and now having shut the falcons down and shut the Falcons out - Army moves on to play Navy in mid-December for the elusive trophy.

Ahmad Bradshaw elevated himself into the 2017 Top 10 in FBS rushing. Talk about an MVP performance - and a lot of those runs were designed QB keepers. It's as if the game plan was to roll into Colorado Springs, puke on their carpet and unleash the captain for 265 yards at 11.5 yards per carry. Check, check and check.

Top ten in FBS rushing is really something - add to that inclusion in West point's rushing single season rushing top ten.

    No.   Player            Year    ATT    AVG    YDS
    1.    Collin Mooney     2008    231    5.8    1339
    2.    Mike Mayweather   1990    274    4.9    1338
    3.    Carlton Jones     2004    209    6.1    1269
    4.    Trent Steelman    2012    241    5.2    1248
    5.    Raymond Maples    2012    223    5.4    1215
    6.    Mike Mayweather   1989    239    4.9    1177
    7.    Michael Wallace   2000    192    6.0    1157
    8.    Doug Black        1984    264    4.3    1148
    9.    Ahmad Bradshaw    2017    142    8.0    1132
    10.   Larry Dixon       2014    191    5.9    1118

Ahmad Bradshaw's season average is 125 yards per game. #17 needs 85 more yards to get his 2017 into Army's top 5 rushing seasons.

If I could show just one thing to help those who haven't been watching every Army football game visualize the Black Knights' success:

That's a lot of wins. It's enough to go bowling for the second year in a row. It's enough to spark the comparisons to 1996; and it's enough to put the CIC trophy in play. 

Tomorrow we have Duke coming up to a sold out Michie Stadium for senior day - Army hopes to go unbeaten at home for the first time since 1996.

Army is tied for third with several others for blocked kicks. 
37 penalties this season has Army into the top 10 for fewest penalties (4.11 penalties per game) which also translates to top top 5 for fewest penalties per game 
Army sits at 4th regarding time of possession , and 3rd in terms of fewest negative yard plays on offense.
Army has lost only two fumbles this year and sits tied for 6th for fewest fumbles for a team in 2017.

129th in passing and 28 pass ypg subtly implies that Army is a running team.

The job that Brent Davis has done in leafing through the playbook over the course of these first 9 games has been outstanding. I used to rave about how Air Force's offense was multiple (squared) They had multiple formations, they ran a variety of option looks and also tried conventional power run and they had a pretty filthy play action game. This is the first time I can remember being this impressed with how Army looked against Air Force. When you look and see the strides that Jeff Monken has taken with this team - keep in mind the style points they earned in this win at Colorado Springs - much of this team's swagger comes from Brent Davis' seemingly unbeatable offense.

Brent Davis is, of course, being mentioned for other FBS jobs.
I suppose that with this timely report on the 501(c)3 funding of service academy athletics now might be a good time to refresh Davis' contract. Let's hope that Davis' interest in GA Southern is a professional courtesy in line with his time with GA Southern as OC.

With the Air Force game we saw much more of the diamond formation and a few new wrinkles out of the flexbone. Some stuff didn't work. There was a new wishbone misdirection QB keeper that didn't have the time or space to gain yardage. I think that was stuffed for no gain right before Ahmad ripped off another long run for a first down inside Air Force's 20. It kind of opens my eyes to how much of a process it is to find a new edge and then find a place to try these things out in a game. Then blend these new schemes into the mix with the weekly offensive staples.

Even with Duke coming into this one with two weeks' prep time I am not so sure they will be able to bottle up Army's rushing attack. They saw plenty new last Saturday, they had a lot to digest from the first 8 games. Duke will still need to square up against Army's zone option game, and if they cover all of that then they can sit in amazement with Army fans on Saturday and sort out what Brent Davis has devised this week just for the Devils.

I cannot wait.

Army Air Force story, stats, highlights and replay

Army 6-2

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Story, Stats, Highlights, Replay

Army Temple Connectivity

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Army Temple stream can be found at the Radio link.


Army Temple Game Notes

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Army/Temple game notes are up.

Here are the game notes for Temple (.pdf).

Temple has been on my list for a good while now. Watching Army beat the Owls on their home field last year was nice, but I'll need another win in order to really make up for the losses of 2009 and 2010.



Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe in Bloglines

Subscribe in a reader