Army UT-San Antonio Game Notes

Friday, September 13, 2019

Game notes are up for Saturday's game.

Army game notes can be found here (.pdf)

UT San Antonio game notes are here (.pdf)


Army 1-1

It takes a game like that to kind of snap ourselves back into reality. This as Army's first loss since September 22 last year. It takes a road game to ranked Michigan to knock this team off their game. This was a winnable game, in a long, long line of winnable games. There were some coaching decisions that hurt Army's chances of winning,

Michigan's 4th down fake was pretty snappy. Army showed the same pressure after the UM penalty on 4th so the Wolverines audible into a little pass play.

I would really rather talk about what Jeff Monken and company have done for the fortunes of Army football. It's amazing.

I don't know if you could ask for a more exciting ball game either.

With such a great run of success Army football has sort realized some other measures of their success. It's a strange measure to mark these twin OT losses to Oklahoma and Michigan as Army's measuring stick simply because they are, after all, losses. This game just like Oklahoma last season should be a valid measuring stick by which to judge Army football. It's no wonder why I believe ties are a good thing for football. You won't be able to convince me that the institution of overtime is a good thing for college football.

What a second half. Army gets Michigan to go 3 and out to open the half. They get a 2 yard run from Slomka and then Artice Hobbs pulls in a 34 yard catch and run that set Army up for what would have been a go ahead score. Army works the ball down to the Michigan 1 yard (2nd and 1) line before a penalty turned the situation into a 3rd and goal from the 6. It's rare for the offense to go into panic mode but panic set in on 3rd down - timeout called and then Army comes in and tries to throw when they know they have 2 downs to score. Army has pounded the ball and dominated possession for the last two years. I think if the coaching staff had a chance to call that 3rd down again they would probably run Slomka and another keeper with Hopkins.
Michigan played solid defense out of the 3-3-5 stack. Not every team can succeed against Army's option with the 3-3-5, but Michigan's defense played alright. The Michigan Defensive Coordinator said they played out of the stack and blitzed every down. I thought Army kept it pretty simple on offense.

What might we take away from another loss like this one?
Well, for one we can look forward to dealing out some pay back as soon as Oklahoma comes calling next year.

Other than that it's Army's first loss in a year, OT loss - probably should have been a win.

Here's the Michigan Army story, stats, highlights and replay.


Yearbook: Michigan Ensian

Friday, September 6, 2019

Here's an interesting collection of yearbooks from the digital collection HathiTrust.

It's strange in that the collection links the full .pdf yearbooks directly from the catalog which I think I've only seen one time before, and it was the university's library catalog not a private digital consortia like this one. Really interesting to see the tech set up like this and that a private group is interested in preserving a yearbook as rich in college football history as this one. The copyright and watermark indicate that Google did the digitization for this set of yearbooks.

The University of Michigan has a robust collection of yearbooks available online. The Michigan Ensian was first published in 1896 and the Wolverines have been playing football since 1876, so a lot of their football history is chronicled in this collection. The collection has 96 volumes in total, but some of them are only partially available to view online, so there are 89 editions available in their entirety.

Michigan has such a rich football history and these pages are chock full of Michigan game writeups, pictures and stories about the players and games of yesteryear.

Don Peterson goes up and over Stanford in 1951

Here's a look at a mass momentum play from the 1914 season.

Michigan vs Michigan Athletic Club

One thing I noticed is that the scans all have a little grain to them. That is, not natural technical anomalies from older photos, but all of the pictures look like they have some kind of digital cross hatching on them. You can probably pick some of that up from the first photo of Don Peterson above.

Regardless, this is a valuable and unique collection very worthy of being archived online, and I'm proud to add them to my collection of Yearbooks. 

Check out the full collection of yearbooks 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.

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On Cut Blocks

Thursday, September 5, 2019

I wanted to do a yearbook post today, but I felt I had to respond to this.

This piece absolutely misses the mark and is about as dishonest an analysis of Brent Davis' offense a I can fathom.

Firstly - I absolutely hate the sports as war analogy - I don't do it, I don't like to read it and it's just a lazy way to write about football. Every year some unseasoned opposing beat writer will drop a 'Football is war' paragraph into their hastily scripted Army football preview. It bothers me as a common metaphor, but it doesn't even come close bothering me as much as this drivel.

"Dangerman: Literally, it's center Peyton Reeder, because if he's engaged with you, someone else is about to take out your knees."

And then there's a video clip of Reeder and Guard Jack Sides executing a 100% legal double team block.

It continues:
Yes, this is highly illegal. Yes, they're coached to do it all the time. Yes, a lot of injuries result from it, both the leave-the-field kind, and the stay-in-but-by-the-4th-quarter-you-won't-dare-to-anchor kind. No, they never have to face justice for it. Are *you* going to flag the troops?

For MGoBlog to insinuate that Army football sees fewer flags just because they are a service academy shows zero respect for the sport, its rules, and its officials to say nothing about slighting the cadet athletes who participate in every single intercollegiate sport. I'll give the statement credit that at least it's more creative subject matter than the "gridiron battlefield" cliche', but it just plays like an Andrew Golota series of low blows when U of M should already have plenty of high road from a competitive or comparative standpoint. What is the point of bullshit like that? I would really love to know.

I'm sure it's a big conspiracy among refs and the NCAA to keep Army, Navy and Air Force hanging around in games they should lose. That benefits everybody because AMERICA!! FUCK YEAH!

Get the hell outta here.

As if the NCAA didn't just last year cut the effectiveness of 1/3 of Army's playbook by eliminating the cut block more than 5 yards off the line of scrimmage. I can only imagine how much a fan like this would have hated the cut block if Army could still run it's playbook from 2016.

But no, it's Army who is looking to bend the rules to their advantage.

Today Army is the one looking to change how the game is played to make up a huge talent differential. Their wishbone triple-option offense gets you three yards every play if you don't screw it up. They leave the kids on the bench until they won't screw it up, and stay on schedule by cheating their asses off….a lot…I have more links.

I don't know what this guy is seeing, but I saw one hold and zero other penalties in there.

What makes MGoBlog qualified to adjudicate the validity of modern option football? Certainly not Michigan's experience matching up against the modern flex bone.
In 2012 Michigan played Air Force, winning 31-25. They played Air Force again in 2017 winning 40-21 and these happen to be the only service academy option teams that the Wolverines have played in over 40 years. Which means aside from 2012 & 2017- the last time Michigan faced a service academy option team would have been back in the T formation era.

I don't get this characterization of cut blocking as some kind of dangerous rogue football technique. There is cut blocking in most every college offense - and while Army's offense relies on a lot of cut blocks every team has the opportunity to practice and utilize the skill. From a defender's standpoint - there are effective ways to neutralize cut block schemes, but just as Army and Navy have to drill their cut blocking technique - opponents have to practice getting off the same blocks. If your guys can't separate and end up getting upended in their gap - it's not Army's fault, it's not the fault of the refs, it's not the fault of the NCAA. If cut blocks are what you're really worried about as an informed college football fan - the burden of overcoming that facet of the game falls solely on the coaching staff and their ability to properly coach football.

If cut blocks are so dangerous how come injuries off of cut blocking rarely happen? If cut blocks are so dangerous why does the NCAA allow tackling below the waist? With this feeble logic almost single every tackle should be a flagrant foul with intent to injure.

Nobody, not even the most squeamish sports fan wants to ban defenses from tackling below the waist. Why? Because it's simply not perceived as a dangerous play. Does that mean that nobody ever gets hurt in a low tackle? no. Does that mean that cut blocks are always injury free? no. We're talking about American football. If you prefer to watch soccer then go watch soccer, but don't characterize well coached teams as cheats or dirty bounty hunters when it's your own personal insecurities about your football team giving up multiple 85+ yard drives and losing the time of possession statistic by something like 2/1. Give me a fuckin break with that and get back to writing about actual football.

To the video analysis that was graciously provided. You can manufacture as much rage as you please, but the plays posted for public display aren't even penalties. All you have to do is check the rule book.

Ask yourself

Does the block happen beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage?
Is the block below the waist?
Is the block thrown by a lineman?
Is the block inside the tackle box?
Is the block thrown toward the offense's defending goal line?

Being unfamiliar with a rule or a technique doesn't mean that you can make up mystery guidelines on what is clean football and what is a flagrant foul. That's what I mean when I'm talking about dishonesty in this context. This Michigan partisan really believes that Army football, its coaches and its players are hell bent on gaming the laws of the sport with illegal tactics and an offense that seeks to intentionally injure every opponent.

I don't have any more time to give to this subject.


Army/Michigan Game Notes

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

This will be the 10th meeting between Army and Michigan.  Army looks to keep their series lead which stands at 5-4 through 9 games.

Michigan game notes are here (pdf).

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


Army 1-0

Army squeaked out a hard fought win over a surprisingly strong Rice University football team last Friday night. Rice brought a good defensive game plan and some real toughness up to West Point, but the Owls faded in the 4th quarter in what became Army's first win of the 2019 season.

Rice stuffed Army's offense with a lot of what looked to me like Rich Ellerson's Double Eagle flex defense.
Early into the 2nd quarter the Cadets were finally able to string some plays together. Army paged through the playbook and tried a little bit of unbalanced formation.
Rice seemed uncomfortable shifting out of the Double Eagle in a 3rd and long situation. Army's next series saw the Black Knights shift back into the Flexbone and attempted a first down run and a second down pass. Rice stuffed the run and the pass play flew out of bounds. The Owl defense played with great confidence and looked more aggressive every play.

With Army at midfield facing 3rd and 9 Rice's defense switched into a 4-4 Spy. Army OC Brent Davis had the right play call and Army burned the Owls for the Black Knights' first long run of the season. Christian Hayes' 35 yard end-around scamper set Army up in Rice territory. Two plays later Kelvin Hopkins was hit as he threw - but Hayes brought the ball in for a first and goal - setting up the first score of the game.    7-0 Black Knights

On Army's next possession Rice showed a mix of the Double Eagle, that 4-4 Spy and some kind of 5-3 front which combined to force an Army punt.

The Owls had a tough time kicking for points as the Rice placekicker missed two important field goals - one from 26 yards and one from 44 yards.
Rice's punting really made this one a game as Army's average starting field position for this one was their own 13 yard line. That is a test for any defense, but on this night the Black Knights D shut Rice down time after time.

Army's inside game was largely shut down by Rice - it seemed like as soon as Army's run game (finally) got things going inside  - they coughed up the football after making some decent gains.

On their last drive, Army faced the Double Eagle D almost exclusively and they dipped a little bit further into the playbook, building off of some of the offensive plays they had shown earlier in the game and using presnap motion to expose the middle of the defense.  The 4th quarter truly belonged to Army and they gave a little reminder of how they operated all of last year. Army had the ball for 10:15 of the last period including a game winning drive that lasted 9+ minutes. Rice was in this one the whole way - they looked really solid on defense - first with their strong Double Eagle defensive set and mixing in other defenses once they thought they had Army beaten on the inside.

Army has got to hold the ball for more than the 33:13 of possession they had. That's how they can keep the tough games close and keep the close games tough. The Cadets seemed to get stronger as the game went on.

Kell Walker brought in the game winning 17 yard touchdown pass which put QB Kelvin Hopkins passing totals for the evening at 3/8 for just 53 yards and one touchdown.

Artie Hobbs, Christian Hayes and Kell Walker each had one reception in the game.

Hopkins led the team in rushing with 21 runs for 81 yards and a score with FB Sandon McCoy right behind with 20 carries for 70 yards.

If you don't think this team has something cooked up for Michigan then you haven't been paying attention to Army's results in the past two years.

Army has the second longest winning streak in the country at 10 games.

The Black Knights also have won 14 straight home games - that's Army's second longest home win streak - second only to the impressive 39 game win streak at Michie Stadium from the years 1925 to 1931.

The win in the 2019 opener bumps Army's all time record on opening day to 98-29-3.

Here's the Rice / Army story, stats, highlights and replay.



Saturday, December 22, 2018

Army 10-2

We've got a STREAK!

Army's 17-10 win over Navy brings the current Army/Navy win streak to 3 and gives Army the chance to win 11 games for the first time in program history.

The game was a close one - as prescribed. I don't know whether it was the intensity and intelligence with which Army played or if I had just expected the game to be close -but I didn't find myself worried about Navy playing their way back into this one - even with TEAM USA punting back to Navy with under 5 minutes left in the game.

The Black Knights' offense showed some new plays and some fun wrinkles to their usual schemes. We saw some reverses, a bunch of misdirection out of their usual variety of formations and the introduction of at least one freeze option play into the mix. They played some shotgun, they played unbalanced. It was another feast of positional play.

Navy's offense was particularly bad. I really expected Navy senior QB Zach Abey to have a much better game. Abey finished the game 0/6 passing with 2 INT.  Navy's offense didn't cross the offensive 30 yard line until the 4th Quarter.  Navy was just 3 of 13 on 3rd down.

Army won the game by doing what they've done all year -  by employing the overwhelming Hopkins/ Woolfolk overwhelming running attack - and maintain a smart fortuitous defense. Without the four(!) turnovers Army well could have lost this game and ruined this stellar season. Army got some lucky takeaways, but I think it was petty clear that Army earned the win.

As comfortable as I happened to be - this one was a dog fight. Army looked pretty clean on offense - having a 7-0 lead at the half - maybe I was expecting Army's offense to break out and finish a long touchdown drive, but Army was never able to step on the throat.

Army cracked the game open twice with freeze plays. Kelvin Hopkins counter keeper took Army inside the 5 with 2:00 to play.

I prattle on about the freeze concept and I count up the style points - but Army uses their freeze concept as a misdirection off of more standard base plays.  The QB draw, in this case, was set up by the previous passing play which held the linebackers back and gave Kelvin Hopkins just enough space to pick up the 8 yards for a first down. It's just masterful plan/execution from the coaches' play call to the athletes on the field. I don't know how they remember all of the formations and plays, but Army fans have been treated to a clinical precision from Army's offense.

It's nice to win over Navy.

The Black Knights rushed for 222 yards and passed for 61 on Hopkins' 4/9 passing. Army held the ball for 34:21 

Here's your Army/Navy Story stats, highlights and replay.

File Under Miscellaneous:

I didn't catch this note before the Lafayette game, but this was a pretty cool move by the Lafaytte Leopards equipment staff.

Houston will be missing a few key players and has had a tough time handling the run this year.

 The Armed Forces Bowl is sold out, and I'm expecting some solid support for the Black Knights in Texas.

Personally, I like Army's chances in this one. I don't usually do predictions, but I've watched both teams play - I know the situation and the venue... Right now the line is Army -5.5.   I think Army wins by 9 or 10

A bowl win Saturday would set off celebrations of Army's first ever 11 win season.


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 16-35-1 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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