Friday, November 4, 2016
Army goes to Colorado Springs on Saturday to meet Air Force on the gridiron.
Air Force is having a nice year, but has lost 3 out of their last 5 games.
As we know, Troy Calhoun has a fairly innovative attack where he mixes flexbone principles in with a variety of offensive formations: Pistol, Single Wing, true Flex Bone and a number of pet formations that I don't have a name for.
A couple of observations. With air Force being so multiple in terms of their formations and their offense - it is tough to prepare for. The Falcons can look a little unpolished as a team only has so much time to learn and practice so many plays. So even this late in the season you may see things like missed reads in the run game, QB pitching off the wrong defender and some ball handling issues. That comes with the territory of involving so many moving parts in the offense, but that's something that could change in the blink of an eye as fans have been calling for Arion Worthman to come in and start no matter the status of Starter Nate Romine.
Air Force ends up being pretty balanced. Their QB Nate Romine has played for the better part of 4 years now and he's had injury woes hold him back in his career. I hope you'll have the chance to notice he's got a few flaws in his execution of the offense. He likes to cut back upfield with the keep read. He does sort of force the pitch on running plays - often holding the ball too long on outside plays - drawing edge defender #2 and then pitching off that late defender. Those coupled with the multiple formations and responsibilities lead me to believe that Army can win the turnover battle if they just play soundly on offense. If the other QB plays it may well be a different story. You might see some up tempo offense from the backup Worthman.
Army should do what they do best and run the football all the day long. There won't be too many players lined up in the Buzz Lightyear suits that can hang with Army's style of play for all four quarters at Michie. I expect the both teams to turn the ball over at least once, but the team that wins on that ledger will have the inside track on this game. No matter who the QB is for Air Force I'm going to call on Army to take this one by something like a 16 or 19 point margin. There is just too much Defense for the Falcons to hang around for the whole game.
This should be the true breakthrough game for the Cadets, should be a nice day to watch/play football.
Game notes are here (.pdf).
Can not wait.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Army persevered on the road at Wake Forest and now have their 5th win to show for it.
It just goes to show that there is a fine line between a 400 yard rushing game and a 240yard rushing game. At the end of the day - Army ended up being too good for Wake Forest. Army was too good at moving the football and they were too good on defense.
It's just a little bit of the system playing out and producing - and when I say system I mean not just the offensive plays as called, but the personnel making the plays work. If Jeff Monken panics and pulls Bradshaw in the 3rd quarter I don't think Army gets out of Raleigh with the win. Instead they stayed the course and the entire system of players, coaches and plays turned around and won the game.
That's just the kind of thing I meant earlier in the year when I mentioned that Army football has finally blossomed under this coaching staff and we can expect start seasons 3-1 just as we can expect to start competing against these kind of teams that have shut Army down in the recent past.
Two things to highlight:
First, the system is good. DAMN good. To watch Army's offense operate and win games like this and keep on schedule as far as A) expanding/showing their playbook throughout the course of the year and B) developing the young players that will play large roles in the upcoming season(s) - it's just perfectly on schedule and there are only positive things to discuss. The playbook will take care of itself - you show what you know and the Army offense has faced some tough tests this year with some very positive results. Compare last year's rushing stats to this year's. By the end of the Air Force game Army will have outrushed last year's team. Currently the numbers have current rushing yards at 2,737 as compared to last year's total 2,931 rushing yards. That is 8 games vs all 12 games - night and day difference. The defense has the same story to tell they have trimmed a full 100 yards per game off their total defensive ypg (375 ypg down to 266 ypg) that's as stunning a turnaround as you can imagine for a defense. Couple that with the better handling of the football in general and you see how the team has turned the program around just by returning some players, sticking to the system and trusting the coaches. It's not the on-field changes that have been made that have made the difference, it's all Jeff Monken's system, and that system has and is currently proving to be a winner.
Second thing: These players run plays the way they were coached and the coaches teach the plays and system masterfully. I think I've seen an Army QB try to pitch of the wrong read one time all year. The linemen have turned out to block their assignments pretty much perfectly for long stretches of the season. Watch the QB follow they have been running every game - every single time a lineman literally cuts the defense in half. It is no surprise that Army is the #2 rushing team in the nation with this system just absolutely clicking on offense.
Compare that to how Ohio State runs the option. There is either a lack of commitment by the players to the plays that are called, or the coaches for whatever reason are telling key players to avoid contact. Either way that's all on Urban Meyer - your QB doesn't want to take the hit on the outside veer? Sit him down and play the kid that runs the play the way it's been taught. Alternately it's the coaches who need to coach the technique of running into the alley with the intent on taking a hit from the pitch read. It's not a difficult concept, but for whatever reason Ohio State isn't willing to take the hit. Not saying they are a bad team, but imagine what they could do if they actually ran the veer the way it's meant to be run. I hope it isn't until next season that the Buckeyes get around to examining that aspect of their offense.
Ok, here are the Army/Wake Forest story, stats and highlights.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Army draws Wake Forest this week and this will be the second week in a row that Army's opponent is coming off a bye week.
That extra time to focus on Army certainly seemed like it helped North Texas in their win at West Point, but this week will make the second straight game against an opponent coming off a bye week.
One upcoming game with a similar footnote is Notre Dame - who comes in the week after they play Navy - to give them 2 straight weeks against the triple option.
Army game notes are here (.pdf).
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
North Texas played a 3 technique LB just off the line when they could and unlike other cases where Army had been able to recognize and exploit the Eagle defender - there seemed to be no answer to North Texas' defensive game.
It's amazing to me that Army could still dominate the time of possession to the extent that they did - with almost a 2 to 1 edge in time on the ball. I have no idea how they could have such an edge in possession while simultaneously seemingly losing possession at every opportunity. Even so, the Army defense got gashed - particularly in the 2nd half. This time it wasn't the increased work load that did in the Cadets defense, it was turnovers.
7 turnovers in one game hasn't happened in a good long while, and I am prepared to wait for even longer until we see it again.
North Texas Defense really stole the show. They showed the Eagle 3 tech. LB and Army adjusted to an unbalanced formation... a little bit of what happened to the adjustment was that UNT applied consistent pressure between the tackles - limiting the fullback option - and they also had the most complete game I can remember seeing by the weak side safety. We saw the reverse work, and it worked nicely as misdirection off of the triple option to the strong side. Where Army let down was not relying on the reverse more often as UNT had that same safety pressure flowing over to the strong side along with the motion man.
Everything Army ran to the strong side got shut down, then out of the unbalanced set it just seemed like the offense never got out of the starting gate. This is where the luxury of not showing your whole playbook in October becomes a liability as all it takes is one guy not recognizing his key or one guy overthinking his play and then - miscue, or misstep - your offense gets off schedule and before you know it the clock is running and your team is behind.
All credit goes to North Texas' defense. They were disruptive at virtually every position on defense.
You had weak side secondary giving pursuit on every play, you had hitting and tackling exacting a price on ball carriers, the inside run was locked down. The only thing Army was left to do was run to the reverse edge, which they were working for, but due to turnovers and being behind by 2 or 3 scores never became a real point of attack.
You want to talk about the disruptive nature of the North Texas' defense... it seemed like the pitch was coming early on every play, but on most of those option plays the read was correct, UNT just had support for the pitch outlet - which set everything back for the Army offense. There was even a play where Bradshaw beat the #1 pitch key and tried to option the #2 man, which just shows how far away North Texas took Army off of their game plan.
Now Army fans are examining their season. The team needs 3 wins to go bowling. Still on the slate are Wake Forest and Notre Dame. It seems like a tall order for this team to go to a bowl, but that is not the be-all-end-all. Army can still win some hardware if they show up vs their academy rivals.
If you really want a splash of reality take a look at Soren Sorensen's chi-square rankings which show Army at 2-1 against the bottom 3 teams in Div 1-A
126 Buffalo 127 Texas El Paso 128 Rice
Strange for this kind of slide after a bye week.
Here's your North Texas/Army story, stats and highlights.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
The Lafayette game went off pretty much exactly as expected, Army dominated in every phase of the game en route to a 62-7 victory. Hell, Army, uh, didn't even punt once.
The Cadets again have the top rushing team in the country, their defense is among the statistical best in all of football. Second in rushing defense, second in total defense, second in allowing opponents first downs... a lot of this comes directly from Army's top 5 time of possession number. This is pretty much the polar opposite of where Rich Ellerson's 2012 fumble-prone team was.
There's definitely room for improvement, which can get glossed over vs a 1-AA foe, but Coach Monken used halftime to challenge the team. It is nice to have the example come in the first half of a 50 point win as opposed to late in a 6 point loss. With that said, Navy has BY FAR the fewest penalties and fewest penalty yards per game. That's the stuff you either fix now or risk having that stat and that final game ruin what has been an enjoyable season.
Here are the story, stats and highlights from the Lafayette game.
Friday, October 14, 2016
Army/Duke ended up being a pretty disappointing game considering all Army needed to do for more than half the game was finish ONE drive.
To be that close and lose on account of a few mistakes is just maddening.
Here are the Army/Duke story, stats and highlights.
Army is second in NCAA team rushing
No time to panic
The bright side is that the defense has put on a show in every game this year. The obvious caveat is that they have been playing behind an efficient offensive machine in their wins, but in their losses the same NCAA #1 rushing offense has experienced lapses enough to in Any remaining game can be won if the offense can extend drives and maximize the time of possession. Army will presumably win against Lafayette tomorrow and will sit at 4-2 at the mid point of the season.
After playing Lafayette on Saturday Army's remaining schedule is
Three wins will get Army to a bowl. It doesn't matter who Army plays Saturday, this game is a big one in terms of bowl hopes.
Posted by Chris at 10/14/2016 12:25:00 PM