Army 4-2

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sure we love the high powered offense when it's clicking like this. I will tell you what - this game could have been bad news early in the first quarter with Kelvin Hopkins being helped off the field with a lower body injury. I could wake up to a masked intruder in my bedroom and not be as terrified as I was watching Kelvin Hopkins being making his way off the field. #8 took the next play off and then returned after San Jose got their 3 points of scoring out of the way.
Hopkins finished with 99 yards on 18 carries with 3 touchdowns running and one passing.

I don't know what they were keying on, but Army's defense seemed to expect a couple of San Jose State's run plays. Whether they heard the call and recognized it or if they saw a tip off in the Spartans formation, they smothered a pair of runs as if they knew the plays. The defense recognized some of SJSU plays and a little further along, I recognized one of Army's.

That passing touchdown to Jordan Asberry was just what the doctor ordered and I remembered a similar looking play from SJSU's game at Oregon earlier this year. Oregon ran the play out of a doubles left formation, Army ran it out of their base flexbone set - and both plays exploited the pitch defender looking into the backfield and getting scorched over the top. When I watched the Ducks throw theirs in week 3, I just knew it would be there for Army.

The other play I predicted was Syracuse's delay QB keeper which I remember from watching Big East games back in the late 1990s. I joked in the post below that freeze option concepts have crept into Army's playbook in the past 2 years starting with the counter QB keeper. Army's freeze sneak was the last play of the 1st quarter and I really wanted to believe that Brent Davis added that play in, but the replay clearly showed Kelvin Hopkins square out for a fullback mesh that never arrived giving the appearance of a freeze step before the 3 yard run into the line.

It's the kind of game you feel sympathy for your opponent - at least I did until the frustration got the best of SJSU. There is something about getting beaten that brings out the worst in some players. I'm over the punch to the face and the Spartan lineman's chickenshit diving display at the end of James Natchigal's TD return. I get Army wanting to play in California, but there are other teams playing in Cali who don't fall back on stuff like that.

I don't know what kind of media push San Jose State gets in terms of nationally televised games, but a game like San Jose State / Army gets picked up by the ESPN monopoly for national broadcast about once every 3 years. Maybe SJSU is comfortable doing that stuff under the ESPN spotlight,
I don't know, but that answered any character questions I had about San Jose State football. Now my only question is: why in the world was that game played at Levi's stadium?

When you litter your own field with pigskin and yellow flags like San Jose did that makes it very hard to impose your will on any opponent and win football games. SJSU coach said he thought his defense was battling even up through their third lost fumble. I guess so, to me it looked like Army was doing everything they planned to do and with relative ease. It's one thing to participate in the football game and it's a another thing to compete in the game. Turnovers didn't beat San Jose, those turnovers only made it a 50 point game - Army put it to San Jose State and won big on the road in every single phase.

This win needs to mean something for Army. This win should show that Army is out of that basement level of NCAA D1 teams. A glance at Soren Sorensen's Chi Square ranking shows Army rates as the #24 team in the country. That's probably higher than Army should be even on paper, but it's nice to see results come back in, so for now I'll keep an eye on Army's Chi Square ranking. The very nature of that rating system will likely keep Army in that top 20 to 30 range even if Army can win out.

It's hard to quantify what it means to have stability at the head coaching spot. Talk about turning a program around, Coach Monken has really grabbed this thing by the collar and formed his team into winners. Monken's record at the U.S. Military Academy is only now even at 28-28, but with the program's recent trajectory it really seems like Army has broken through to a new level of success. I don't think I could have imagined 10 win seasons for Army in my wildest dreams, especially after years and years of just trying to knock off Navy. There has been some good fortune around the team in some of its wins under this coaching staff, but a lot of the credit for Army's success goes to coaching. Frankly, I wouldn't want any other living, breathing coach to lead the team - and if we're lucky we'll have Jeff Monken and his loyal staff for many years to come. Sure, longevity has a lot to do with the stability of a coaching staff, but one thing that this staff gets right every time is that stability is made in the 'now'. Coaching carousel rumors will certainly crop up for Jeff Monken, and I'm hoping he remains on the hiring radar of NCAA athletic directors. Just remember when that happens (and it will) as fans we're not going to focus on rumors and job stuff; we've been coached to work on winning the next game - nothing else.

Army San Jose State story, stats and highlights.


Yearbook: San Jose Sate

Friday, October 12, 2018

Here's another addition to the yearbooks. San Jose State has their La Torre yearboks available online.

This one is pretty nice small collection of online yearbooks with 55 yearbooks from 1910 to 1965. The publication was named the Senior Year Book in its first few years and was published under the name La Torre after 1915.

As with any texts of historical value, it's nice to have any of these texts digitized and available, but it's better to have a comprehensive year-to-year collection. SJSU's ContentDM system works, and it has some things going for it but I don't think it's the best in-browser viewer we've seen, and overall the content of the books is a little bit ho-hum. You can search at the collection level, but within each yearbook, only the full-text version is searchable. You can search the text version and toggle over to the .pdf version, but it's still pretty clunky.

There are, however, some interesting stories from the football pages. Most notably was San Jose State's December road trip to Hawaii in 1941. Hawaii was scheduled to play both Hawaii and Wilamette University on the trip - but after the Japanese attack on pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th - San Jose State players were deputized by Hawaii police to assist in the institution of martial law.

This story goes into further detail about the Spartans Hawaii visit.

It's a telling snapshot of American history. To have a group of university boys show up for work on what should have been their season-ending vacation speaks to the maturity, character, and compassion of the students of that era. If you finish reading the La Torre's 1941 season review you will encounter the yearbook's description of a Nevada-Reno halfback as a "great negro back" which, taken with the Hawaii trip, to me, shows that for better or worse - we live in very different times.

You can find a number of other college yearbooks along with the San Jose State University La Torre under the Yearbooks tab above.

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 San Jose State Game Notes

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Army/San Jose State game notes are up.

Army's game notes can be found here.  (.pdf)

San Jose State's here.

I found this interesting from the front page of  San Jose State's notes. 

This was the takeaway line from the Army notes:

2018 AVG. POSSESSION/GAME :    Army  40:14              SJSU  19:46


Army 3-2

Saturday, October 6, 2018

 Last year I was worried about losing to Buffalo; this year the feeling was the same - right up until it wasn't.

Army is just a road grader on offense. There are just so many threats to close down. Play action, unbalanced, midline option, shotgun and plus a fullback crew that rotates in fresh from the bench. The O-line gets warmed up and it is pretty much: 6 yards, 6 yards, 2 yards, 10 yards, 4 yards 3 yards and top that off with third down passing executed as prescribed. The staples of the Army offense are vexing and potent- but opposing coaches can further ponder Army's deepening playbook and misdirection schemes.

With the ol' QB counter keeper and the Rocket fake-pass Army has called on multiple elements of the freeze option offense. If we see Army go split backs /QB drop back delay QB draw, then Paul Pasqueloni will start poking around the West Point Athletics Department looking for royalties checks.

Calen Holt's early touchdown to tie the game was crafted from a cleverly masked unbalanced formation and a quick pitch to the B Back. The Cadets have hung their hat on the fullback inside, and now we're seeing these little misdirection plays to get the B backs out in space. I don't think there's a team on Army's schedule that can shut down their week 4 playbook - now we're seeing a little bit of the creativity that Brent Davis employs with the flexbone. I don't know how teams are planning on stopping Army's tendencies when the offense is now seasoning its plays with some pretty effective systemic misdirection off of the Cadets usual (and unusual) looks.

 Once I saw Army's 7 minute- 12 play sleeper hold of a drive to go up 14-7 I knew that Buffalo's offense was under the microscope and Army was in good shape. At that point Buffalo answered the challenge, but with he Bulls punching back - Elijah Riley took the blocked Buffalo field goal try for an Army score. Riley, with his long flowing locks, I thought it was Troy Polamalu with the scoop and score.

This game featured a ton of penalty markers as the teams combined for 151 penalty yards. You can atone for some of those penalties on third down, and Army did that on Saturday: 9 of 14 on 3rd down 3/3 on 4th down. Buffalo's 2 of 13 on 3rd and 4th downs adequately reflects Army's defensive efforts on the day.

Kelvin Hopkins option mixed in with the punishing inside run game is turning out to be a really powerful rushing attack. Just ponder what kind of team it is that needs a 5 fullback rotation. Against Buffalo, Army ran 70 offensive plays and the fullbacks handled the ball on about 40% of the team's plays. When Army's offense gains momentum in the second half of games it's the ball control offense and the depth at fullback that really breaks down the opposing defense. Through 5 games the fullbacks have run for 875 yards and 11 TD's.

Army turned up as #1 on both third and fourth down conversions.

               #1                                       #1
   44 82 53.7 16 18 88.9

Army and Buffalo will take a year off before their last scheduled football game in 2020. the 2014 Buffalo game was Coach Monken's first win as Army coach. I'm all for continuing the Buffalo series. UB makes for a short road trip, it's a reasonable in-state rival and the games have mostly been closely contested.

The Buffalo Bulls remain 4-1 and atop the MAC East standings.

Here's the Army Buffalo Story, Stats and Highlights

Army 2-1-1

Friday, September 28, 2018

Whew! Having taken a step back from this one. It's an uncomfortable feeling counting up multiple positives from a lost game. Mildly uncomfortable - not nearly as uncomfortable as listening to the bellyaching from Oklahoma fans about OU football taking Army to overtime.

As soon as Army touched the ball the Black Knights maintained full ownership of the football. Army's pay-per-view offensive package dominated possession for most of  this one and the Oklahoma Sooners held the ball for just 16 total minutes. The Cadets extended drives with 4 of 5 4th down conversions.

I'm not going to wait around for the fans of Army's power 5 opponents to start respecting Army
After astute reactions like "Why couldn't OU stop the same 3 plays?" and "If ARMY can run for 339 yards what will Baylor, WVU, Texas and TCU do?" Just going by the NCAA stat sheet I would guess those teams might run on OU for something like 172, 203, 181, 225 yards respectively - possibly more if the Sooners give up 40+ minutes of ball possession.

Watch the Oklahoma game - there is nothing there to suggest that Army should physically dominate Oklahoma. But -- schematically - with the time of possession imbalance and the Sooners' inability to stop Army down the stretch - the option physically wore down Oklahoma's defense. Army is a team averaging 41 minutes on the ball in their their first 4 games and Kelvin Hopkins is playing QB like Ahmad Bradshaw with a lawn dart. Considering what Army is doing on offense and some of their depth,  they're gearing up to really put some of the lighter teams on the schedule through a meat grinder.

339 yards rushing is a robust number - it edges Army's season average of 314 yards/ game.

Likewise the 41 minutes of possession shoulders up to their average.

This was just a dominant offensive performance the likes of which I can't recall from Army. Just to meet a challenge like that against Oklahoma in Norman - it's just an amazing spectacle to see how organized and focused Army has been both at home and on the road.  Talk about tough environments - Overtime in Norman. Unreal. Don't even get me started on the shameful institution of college football overtime.

If you haven't gotten used to this type of dominant offensive performance, well, get used to it. Hats off to Coach Monken and the whole coaching team for their efforts in every single game. I always consider stability at the head coaching spot so important for success in college football. Well Jeff Monken came to West Point with a championship pedigree and you can tune in any given Saturday- - doesn't matter Army's opponent -  and take in an exhibition of football excellence.

To even play Oklahoma into the 4th Quarter like that - and then have that 4th Quarter. It was maybe 2 first downs short of knocking off #5.

It's either that Army's offense is an unstoppable arsenal OR Oklahoma's defense is soft and got gradually worn down by a solid running attack. Any post game suggestion that the Oklahoma defensive alignment alignment made the game run like "pitch drills" holds within it the truth that Oklahoma was outcoached and additionally outplayed overall and on the defensive side of the ball Oklahoma football showed up in name only. Oklahoma basically bested all-time tackling records TWICE and squeaked out the OT win in a game where Army's offense should feel like they had a few more plays in some drives.

We will see how Oklahoma's D holds up over the Big 12 season.

Saturday's game against Buffalo looks like a measuring stick game for both teams and both teams should come in with something to prove. Buffalo won't be one of the aforementioned 'light teams'. In Buffalo we're seeing another championship caliber coach in Lance Leipold and a team that has grown with him since he joined Buffalo 4 years ago. This game may actually be Army's last chance for a statement win this year. 4-0 Buffalo at home for a shot at revenge for Army's cheeky fake punt game winner last year. I don't know what if anything Buffalo will use for motivation this week - but whatever it is they better bring it with them because Army is nasty.

Army / Oklahoma StoryStatsHighlights and Replay 

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 _______________


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