Army 9-2

Thursday, November 22, 2018


After manhandling Lafayete, (story, stats, highlights replay)


Army fought off a GAME Colgate team, in what was Army's 13th consecutive home victory. It wasn't much of a nail biter, but Colgate played pretty well. Colgate left it on the field, but came up short in a few spots and ultimately lost their first game this year.


Army found themselves up just 7 points in the 3rd quarter, but were able to keep the Colgate Raiders at an arm's distance, as they employed their usual ball-control style. Army finished with 35 minutes of possession, and even though it was close at times, I didn't really feel like Army was in any risk.  Colgate had a decent game running the football, finishing with 188 yards on the ground. Colgate's 188 rush yards was the second most yards rushing that Army gave up this year - second only to Oklahoma's 190 in September. It was really 3rd down that unraveled the Raiders, Colgate went just 2-8 on third down and in the second half had a pair of key loss of downs on 4th down. Things weren't all bad for 'Gate as their 9-1 season earned them a bye in the 1-AA playoffs. Colgate will face the winner of Colonial Athletic Association teams James Madison and Delaware.

Army's win vaulted them into the AP top 25 for the first time since 1996. Quite a momentous feat.

Army sits just above Pitt in both the the AP and Coaches' polls (Army #23 AP, #24 Coaches' -  Pitt #24 AP, #25 Coaches') so I guess this is finally the time of year where I compare Army and my Alma Mater. I've thought about this off and on this year - from Army's Oklahoma road trip to Pitt thrashing Georgia Tech in ACC play and their run to the ACC Coastal title. I know Army is damn good, but I think Pitt has all the pieces to beat Army on a neutral field. Pitt has a tricky offensive scheme predicated by the dual threat rushing attack of Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, they sort of play you inside out with their underneath shuffle pass plays to their ends and fullbacks, plus their Quarterback has great vision downfield and can tuck the ball and run. Pitt played well defensively against Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets and I think they would take this one, if they played. I know one thing for sure I never want Army to play Pitt in a bowl. A bowl game between my two favorite teams would take most of the fun out of the postseason for me. And now that that is out there I'm 100% sure Army will not only play against Pitt this postseason - but they will do something like shut out the Panthers and make a mockery of the above comparison. Army vs. Pittsburgh is the only way I will ever root against Pitt. I hope it never comes to pass.



As predicted, Army's Chi-squared ranking that I noted in earlier posts has actually dropped Army out of the top-25 despite their win streak, mainly due to strength of schedule. Army now sits at #31 in Soren Sorensen's rankings.



For me the surreal nature of this season was amplified once I saw Navy football on this Bottom 25 list.

Army top 25 - Navy Bottom 25... go ahead and prepare yourselves now for another nail biting finish in the year end classic.




Here's the Colgate/Army storystatshighlights and replay.






Army 7-2

Friday, November 9, 2018

That shit don't fly

I get where the pranks come from historically, but it is always a poor decision to steal an animal.


Army football wins against Air Force are pretty rare, but Last Saturday made for 2 in a row for Jeff Monken's Cadets. Army is just 35-16-1 all time against the Falcons, and it feels even more lopsided recently, Army having just 6 wins in the series since 1987.
Air Force has absolutely owned Army for as long as I can remember.


Triple Option Football Academy features some great option offense X's and O's. Their video posts detail many of the nuances of the Paul Johnson option offense. Triple Option Academy listed this sheet of figures which absolutely blows my mind.

The two rankings that stand out are the 4th down conversion % and the time of possession ranking. We know Monken gambles on 4th down, and they're so good in short yardage that they can extend drive after drive by rolling the dice on 4th down. From that Triple Option Academy post:

"Army averages 4 fourth down attempts per game, which is #1 in the nation right now."

Triple Option Football Academy is a great resource for those trying to keep up with what it is that Army does so well, you can find a link to Triple Option Academy site the sidebar under CFB links.


Army averages 39 minutes of possession per game. 9 games into a season, that is just unbelievable. That's the kind of number I would imagine teams having if there was no play clock. If you ask me, that 39 minute T.O.P. average is the best evidence I can find that the world we all live in is actually a computer simulation. 40 minutes per game - that's 2/3 of any game - 2/3 of any season - spent pounding the ball. What this team can do over the football just defies belief, and I don't think they're through revealing their playbook.

Just look at what Army has done in the last 2 years.

Man, that is a lot of wins!



Here's what that visual can guarantee:

Well, it makes for three bowl bids in a row, that's a new level of success for Army. Also we can expect to hear Jeff Monken's name in more and more NCAA coaching searches. That is one uncomfortable side effect of that kind of success.


No Limit Hold-em

What a finish! With under 2 minutes to play, Cole Christiansen and James Nachtigal combined for two defensive stops on 3rd and 4th down to end a serious late game threat with Army leading by 3. That's all to the good, but once they earn the ball back and are facing 4th down one last time - the best option is to punt the ball in. I like that Monken is a gambler, but there has to be a point were this "analytics" sheet comes back to convention. I've seen a lot of woulda-shoulda 4th downs attempts at midfield, and it's a shameful way to lose a game. I can never advocate going for "extra" late-late in either half. There is always the Tecmo Bowl temptation to go on 4th down. With 17 seconds left preserving the lead is important and the best way to do that in that situation is to punt the ball away. Preserving the lead is one thing, but a bigger goal is stability at the coaching spot, and you can easily Ron Dickerson yourself by running a sneak at midfield with a hobbled QB.



The blackout uniforms looked nice, I wouldn't mind seeing these again against Navy. We're probably a few weeks away from any announcement on the Army/Navy uniforms.


Compared to all others, I think this is the #1 best Army football team ever.

Ok they're not going to win a national title, but the 2000's are a different paradigm than football in the 1940's. To have a chance at 10 wins in today's NCAA Div. 1-A is a remarkable achievement for a service academy. If today's team played the 1945 team it w These coaches need to be recognized as great - and whether or not they are recognized with awards  - they should be recognized in history as the greatest Army football coaches and staff of all time. Things change fast in college football fortunes, but I'm willing to debate that claim if anyone cares to challenge me on that.


Anyway, Lafayette is coming up to play. Their game notes are up.

Army Game notes

Lafayette Game notes


I'm always happy to find another eastern college football blog, and Ramblings from the Bench is a Lafayette themed blog written by veteran sportswriter Paul Reinhard.

He's got a few articles out there that may be of interest to Army fans. Here's a puff piece on Andy Davidson and his return to his backyard.


Some people might think he would be a bit disappointed because, after a sophomore season in which he gained 910 yards and scored nine touchdowns, his production has decreased each year. He had 627 yards and five TDs in 2017 and has just 44 carries for 176 yards and two scores this season for a team that is 7-2.They would be wrong.“I’ve been redefined every year,” Davidson said. “You do whatever you have to do to help the team win, and thankfully, I’m playing my part the best I can and we’re winning a lot of games." 

Very interesting write-up for Army fans.




Alright here are the Army/ Air Force story, stats, highlights and replay.



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Army 6-2

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bowl bound Army has a nice ring to it. In a way back-to-back-to-back bowl bids signals a shift in what Army football plays for. The academies will naturally covet the Commander in Chief's Trophy, that is Army's measuring stick, and even though the Black Knights haven't kept up pace with the CIC competition over the years - that has always been their goal.

Bowl games have been so rare for Army football that until the last two years there has been virtually no postseason presence for Army. The expectation was never a bowl bid, and there were full decades where the Navy game was Army's chance at "post-season" redemption. The expectation of a bowl game every year is lofty; Army will eventually lose a game at home, and they shall lose some rivalry games and some road games -  maybe they drop a close one gambling on 4th down.... maybe they fumble a game away. Maybe they fumble two games away. It can all happen in some future season just like Army's bowl chances can be dashed by week 8. The 2018 Army team is built to win, and winning college teams play in bowl games.

We're looking at 3 straight years of bowl participation, and that can change the mood of a fan base. As for myself, I am just starting to get comfortable with the idea that Army routinely wins at football - Am I correct to expect Army to win? I think so. West Point crafts their own schedule, so winnable football games should be a common thing for Army. Would I be correct to expect a bowl game every year? No - I see the college postseason as a good team goal and a fine reward for the players and staff, but fans can sow a lot of disappointment by having inflated expectations of their favorite mid-major independent football team. I love that Army is attracting bowl interest, and I love that they have a post season bowl as one of the team goals. I don't think I will ever expect Army to go to a bowl year in and year out, but I will appreciate it when Army is selected. This will be the first time Army has made three straight bowl appearances. I think we all can agree that it's much more comfortable attaining bowl eligibility in week 9 as opposed to bowl selectors waiting for a 5-6 Army team to play Navy in mid December.


I have to say how much I like CBSSN's Army away game coverage. There was a time not too long ago where Eastern Michigan / Army games had so little TV interest the game at Ypsilanti might as well been played on the moon. This is the second time this year that CBSSN showed up for an Army away game and I appreciate CBSSN more and more every week. I noticed ESPN's poor camera work in the season opener at Duke - Television production can only expand so far and so fast, and with the ACC network ramping up television ops it's clear to me that ESPN has diluted its college football product.

Also - ESPN can't start the weekend with our favorite song.




Army got back to their deep freeze tactics. There were runs off the freeze, passes of the freeze, a new counter off the freeze. By the 4th quarter there was enough freeze that I thought Army might actually achieve ABSOLUTE ZERO. That's right, friends - 0° Kelvin.


Freezer Burn





Army offense kept things fresh in the game at Ypsilanti.  There was plenty of variety within each play. Army can pitch to the B back, they can also run inside with the slots . It looked like they had a few other wrinkles that maybe Kelvin Hopkins kept the ball instead of showing off their playbook. I'll let you know which one it was if they do end up running the play for real. I can't imagine a team that is harder to prepare for than Army. Just imagine the pressure that Army puts on their opponents. Opponents' offense needs to execute and move the football - defense needs to stop an offense that is sure handed, tricky and explosive. There were 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter in this one and Army already had 40 minutes of possession. It takes one hell of a 4th quarter to overcome that kind of dominance.

Army's opponents have had to play a perfect game just to hang with the Cadets. Eastern Michigan did not play a perfect game. The Eagles dropped passes and senseless penalties crushed the EMU early, and those are just the self inflicted things. EMU had a rash of injuries that didn't help their cause, and the entire first half belonged to Army. Army's 16-0 halftime lead was just as much a testament to the USMA defense as it was to the offense- Eastern had just 18 total first half yards (zero 1st downs).


It was nice to see Monken "take the points" on 4th down in the red zone. The coaches liked it so much they grabbed 3 short field goals in the first half. The win was Army's 10th straight home win, that's pretty special.

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



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Army 5-2

Thursday, October 25, 2018


In a game of slim margins, leaving points on the field will wreck you. I would never compare anyone on the Army coaching staff to Dave Wannstedt, but this is just the kind of thing that Wanny used to do to piss games away. Let this one go to show: you can't win a game in the first half alone. Army's coaching staff loves to gamble, and no gambler can win em all. Army tried for a touchdown at the end of the first half - got stuffed - and left some points down there in the red zone. I don't have any problem involving J. Abercrombie at that stage of the game to try a short field goal in a lower pressure  scenario. Sure this offense should be able to come out of the first half with the touchdown, but Army won the coin toss and could take the 3 points and still get the ball back in the 2nd half. The tendency to gamble can be distressing, but to this point of the season the Cadets have been extremely successful in their 4th down conversions, so you can't really fault Jeff Monken for wanting 7. If you're taking notes: the smart money is on kicking for 3.


3rd quarter the lack of the play action pass exposed a lot of what Army has been relying on this year. With no pass threat the Miami safety kept keying the tail motion and continued to vault himself into the run support. Prior to Miami, and with Kelvin under center, if an opposing safety showed this trend the play-action would even out that safety-cheat real quick. With a first-time starter, I guess it isn't prudent to challenge that safety over the top. They tried it once, but that safety #49 was able to recover enough to make a play. I understand that you can't just air it out with  QB #4- but when this happens you're allowing that safety to make up for a lot of linebacker mistakes to the edge and as an offense you're giving that player a chance to negate great individual plays from the offense. Army instead attacked that safety's jump with the fullback which is a good play, but it doesn't freeze that safety. The play action pass keeps the safety honest and you get the added bonus of the chunk of yardage when it's successful. If Kelvin was in the game he may have had a career day passing against that aggressive backfield.



When you're up by 14 with 5 minutes to play there should be no question about the outcome of the game. To this point in the season the offense has forged the identity of this team. They average 40 minutes of offense - well they were close to that with 36 minutes. This is the closest that anyone has come to running clock on Army - and Miami didn't look particularly good doing it. Their rushing attack was nonexistent, 56 yards rushing for Miami QB Gus Ragland and the rest of the team had 21 yards rushing. Granted they were playing from behind in the second half, but when Miami needed plays, somehow their passing game came through.  I want to suggest that there is a very small margin of error for Army's offense to control a game, but Army had the Redhawks caged in for most of the game. Just to take this one to overtime, Miami needed zero turnovers and happened to convert 7 of their 9 fourth down conversions. Since they were down early they abandoned the running game and relied solely on their passing attack. If Army gains 3 more first downs in the 2nd half I think they win this one kneeling on the ball, but it took Miami every ounce of luck to play their way into this one. Army's defense did well and put the team in position to win several times. Conversely, if the offense held the ball for 5 more minutes in the second half we're probably talking about a 31-14 Army win.



Cam Thomas had to deal with 9 defenders in the box basically the entire game. Miami played the percentages and challenged Army to pass - but Brent Davis was more content using the inside run against the outside run to see if Miami could get caught up in the option guessing game. The problem came in that Miami was playing so tight in the box that if Army missed or couldn't sustain a block Miami had numbers in an environment of limited space. It looked like Army was trying to work some short cut block schemes into the zone runs and they kept it clean for the most part. The NCAA can try to legislate the option out of existence, but you're not going to keep an option coach from scheming plays out and solving the riddle. Army's cut blocks were hit and miss at times the sprawling linemen weren't able to cut off Miami's defensive flow - there were plays where the entire line cut blocked and the Miami defense sidestepped the blocks and swarmed to the ball. I would expect to see more, and more effective, cut blocking schemes if they face this kind of 9 in the box overload.



Army hangs on in the Chi Squared NCAA top 25. As the strength of schedule tails off in the coming weeks this top 25 ranking will likely wither away, so take a mental snapshot of Army in and among the FBS top 25.

Second week in a row that Army found themselves using one out of Paul Pasqueloni's playbook. This time it was a 3rd down shotgun draw play that I at first thought was a pass play, but the more I look at it I think this one was drawn up. WRs' blocking downfield, O Line absorbing pressure wide, but internally breaking loose to block. These guys are a freeze option team, and it is sensational.


Tim Ace Gun 35 Q Ice




One of the things that is really starting to piss me off are these leg-whip tackles that defenses are resorting to. Against Oklahoma, Liberty, Buffalo and now Miami (OH) defenders have been blocked out of the play, but have made tackles by throwing whatever they can at the runner. I've seen multiple instances of Army ball carriers being tripped to the ground when Army otherwise had open space.

Tripping
Tripped up by Oklahoma


It's really disappointing that some of the refs Army has seen are so involved instituting new rules that they ignore actual dangerous and illegal plays that take place. It's one thing to have rules changes to make the game safer, it's another to put new rules in place that limit effective offenses - and then it's another thing to ignore actual rules that are in place just to screw the smaller team. Watch the Oklahoma game again - that's why big money coaches are afraid of this offense. And while the NCAA and rules committee clowns take effective, safe tools out of Army's repertoire they're missing dangerous and cheap plays like a blocked player tripping down a ball carrier. I don't need any more evidence, power 5 teams are afraid of a run game like Army's and instead of learning how to push back on the field they run crying to the rules committee. It's the old story of the privileged bully and if it didn't directly effect my personal enjoyment of each weekend then I would get a good laugh at the "Power  5" crybabies taking their football and running home. How about a compromise? Army can cut block within 15 yards of the LOS and defenders can legally trip a ball carrier. At least option teams get something out of that deal.


Army remains #1 for 4th down conversions on offense
#1 for Time of possession
#1 for Sacks allowed
#4 for 3rd down conversions offense
#9 for 3rd down conversions defense
#11 for Rushing Defense


The Cadets are fearsome at home, this one makes 10 straight wins at Michie Stadium. 10 wins in a row in any context is pretty amazing, but to have the home field magic going strong for a stellar sold-out homecoming crowd. The team deserves fans like these, and with a showing like the capacity crowd on Saturday - Army fans deserve a winner of a football team. Man, what a team this is!


Miami(OH) Army  story, stats, highlights and replay.





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Army 4-2

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Update: added link to replay 


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 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, statshighlights and replay.






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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.




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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




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