Many Happy Returns

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Alright, who's ready to kick off another Army football season? We've all waited plenty long enough and the 2016 college football season is mere weeks away.

First order of business: 

Ahmad Bradshaw escaped Chicago to play football at west point... then escaped West Point to go back to Chicago... and now has abandoned his flight to remain as the QB at West Point.

I don't know the specifics of why Bradshaw left the team, but it would have been a huge blow to Army's depth at QB. Having a capable backup is crucial and losing any of the quarterbacks at this point would have been disastrous. It comes as a reminder that Army needs 2 capable backups for any given season.
If QB Chris Carter was pressed into the starting role his presumptive backup Malik McGue would need to be ready to play. Thankfully Bradshaw stays and I have stopped hyperventilating. It would have been pretty much the worst time to lose your top guy, but as it is it's just a reminder of how things can spin out of control very quickly.

With any luck I will keep up with the season and post somewhat regularly.
Thanks for coming back.

Army 2-8

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Army got thrashed in their home stadium on Saturday and though the thrashing wouldn't have been possible if Tulane didn't play well - Army thrashed themselves with a comedy of errors on both sides of the football. Of particular note were Army's 5 fumbles (1 lost) that took the Cadets from a starting the game as a likely favorite, to hanging on for dear life throughout the contest and on to gritty late stage comeback and, seemingly inevitably, a late letdown to Tulane.

Army's defense made Tulane look like an NFL team and considering where these two teams stand at this point in the season... to have that happen at home is not acceptable. It's going to have to be accepted though, because the Jeff Monken regime is just now preparing to start to begin to get ready to play football.

The gains Coach Monken has made may not be obvious on the field, and we're seeing a lot of vanilla offense - which speaks to the point that there aren't really players on the offense who you scheme to get the football, aside from the injured Ahmad Bradshaw, but that speaks once more to justifying the vanilla seeming play calls.

Coach monken has moved the team into bona fide youth movement, and it's not a moment too soon. It's a tough spot for the seniors who have been there and earned their way onto the field, but this team needs to prove itself, and then it needs to improve itself, and the gauge for any improvement has nothing to do with Senior day, it has nothing to do with the 2-8 record and for this team, has nothing at all to do with additional bowl practices. It may seem like harsh treatment of an upperclassman for Coach Monken to go on about Chris Carnegie's play, but this is a team that needs to be challenged. Make no mistake, the coaching staff was responsible for challenging the team from day one, and the call for an open challenge to the seniors as well as the younger members of the team should have been in effect by August. Now it comes out as if Monken is throwing players under the bus, but it's necessary, no matter the expense, to make moves to younger personnel - to me, this says a lot more about failures at the top spot than any specific performance related issue by a player.

As much as I hate recruiting, it's going to come down to bringing in athletes that want to be challenged by the coach. It's going to take another 2 recruiting classes of believers and doers to bring forth the vision of this coaching staff. I don't have the time or stamina to keep up with Army's recruiting agenda, but without results and without some hardware on the shelf it makes it hard to sell that winning vision. Presently, Coach Monken's future stars are freshmen and yet-to-be recruited.

So West Point are 2-8 and looking ahead to a youth movement on senior day. To this point plenty of underclassmen have seen the field, so it's not like Army's going through wholesale change. Things like injuries have ground down depth at some positions and a genuine eye to the future was always there as H.C. Monken has tried to get time in for the younger players that will be counted on in the future.

I like the coaches Army has now and we're seeing some early adversity in the Monken coaching regime. It may look like coach is putting blame on his players, but it is very easy for me to see that a lot of the blame falls on the coaching staff (as it should). The responses to that reality may seem harsh, but if the team is looking to improve itself moving forward, I don't know what other moves to recommend aside from a full-on youth movement.

The only other remedy in this sport is winning - so I guess my advice to the team would be to BEAT RUTGERS.

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


Veterans Day 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Army 2-7

Sunday, November 8, 2015

So many words about Army West Point in this piece... it is nice that this character finally got to watch a full game of Army football this season. I hope he enjoyed it.

It is clear the defense is not where it needs to be to play winning football and I can think of a number of things that I don't like about Coach Monken's offensive schemes. In fact I think there is a clear need for  improvement in some of the things Army does to move the ball.
With that said, I have zero questions about punting on 4th and 1 from midfield. Keeping the game close is a virtue on the road, so is playing smart field position. Army chased the first down in past games and got smacked for it. There is zero argument in favor of gambling in that situation on your own side of the field. In this sport, faith in your methods has nothing to do with showing off your balls and a whole lot more to do with making and taking advantages.

4th and 1 from midfield is a no, and 4th & 2 from the Air Force 37... that's a punt too. Scenario A... the answer was punt and scenario B, the answer is a punt.

Seriously though... 4th and 2 from the 47 and the result of the punt was Air Force backed up at their own 4 yard line. HOW IS THAT A BAD IDEA?!?!

Go ahead and look at the play by play.  You don't even have to look at each play... you can see it was a field position game. I have no problem with either of Army's first 2 punts except that the second one should have been sent out of bounds at the 10 yard line.

Do you give Grochowski a shot from the 37? probably not. Do you line em up and keep running plays? Absolutely not. The Army offense I've been watching all year has required an extended feeling out process against pretty much every single opponent. Is that a good thing? From my perspective, no. I wish the Cadets had built in size and skill advantages and could score at will, but they don't. So you get rid of the football.

Anyway, another loss. Losing to another service academy always stings and lately these academy contests have become very tiring. I am becoming aware that whereas Navy has Notre Dame as its dragon to slay, Air force is likewise Army's dragon.

Here are the Army/Air Force story, stats and some 'highlights'.

Up next is a return to Michie for the feel-good rivalry game with Tulane. It's time to start winning.


Army 1-4

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dang, Army got their clock cleaned by Duke and while the result probably wouldn't be any different if they played their best... Army left a lot of unfinished business on the field that day.

I didn't see a lot of misdirection in the system during the Duke game. There was some pretty basic plays being run and while it is possible the option system requires a feeling-out process, it has become clear that other option teams find that comfort level and more importantly find plays that work to beat an opponent mentally, physically and beat them in space. 
 Army started the game with a fumble on the very first touch of the football. From there, they were backed up and ran a draw on 3rd and long.
Second time they touched the ball they backed themselves up with a false start on their first chance and by the end of that series you could see that Duke blew up every play.
It was interesting to see Bradshaw play, and there is no question he's a dynamic player with the football, but every year this position takes an extraordinary amount of punishment and every year at about this time I start wondering if Army should carry 3 or 4 active and competent QBs to fill in.

It is hard to play yourself into games when you're relying on a pitch off tackle on 4th down. It's a tough situation: 4th and 2, but there are better decisions than the Tecmo Bowl 4th down strategy.
Duke outplayed Army from start to finish and there were a lot of times Army was out-coached as well.

With that said, I hope Army keeps playing Duke as they make an appropriate opponent for Army.

I have no idea why Army had a game at filthy Beaver Stadium. Army already has amazing exposure in PA, and even if the Cadets achieved and beat the Nittany Lions they are still associated with those kinds of people. The rationale behind scheduling PSU most certainly came down to Army's payout from the Penn State athletic department. Isn't it more valuable to travel somewhere and play a respectable program than get involved whatever it is that they do in Happy valley?

Anyway, there's Duke... I'm not writing up Penn State and I'll have Bucknell's postmortem up probably tomorrow.

Here are the Army/Duke story, stats and highlights


Army 1-3

Monday, September 28, 2015

Army seized their chance to finish and they did just that and in spectacular fashion.

Army's offense lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the second half which didn't limit the potency of the offense. The team elevated their level of play in key situations and played out some stifling drives when it mattered most. The offensive line had a pretty good game at Ypsilanti and consistently found their edge against an over-aggressive defensive front. How many plays did the Army offense snap the ball and just blow past 2 and 3 linebackers for chunks of yardage?

Some of that - well, a lot of that, was Eastern linebackers just stepping up into the teeth of Army's offense. They didn't show much interest or ability in reacting to and avoiding blocks, and Army ran the ball at will.

Army does seem to play well in Ypsilanti, you can't expect those fortunate things like Eastern's fumble into the end zone - recovered by the Cadets - but road games there seem to be rich with that kind of fortune. In this one, both Army's offense and defense solved  big problems from the last few weeks.
while Eastern Michigan managed just 3/10 on 3rd down Army was a healthy 10/14

There was a good amount of misdirection in this ballgame, from systemic things like the fake punt, to much more depth in the play-action game and the use of multiple formations which is the hallmark of Coach Monken's best teams. I liked a lot of the misdirection that I saw. AJ Schurr's TD came off a nasty looking overload play where it looked like Army could have scored with the outside pitch just as easily as AJ's keeper. There were more than just a few plays like that where you could see a full 1/3 of Eastern's players schemed completely out of the play. It was an impressive offensive display and Army fans got to witness the ideal situation of playing with a lead, hogging ball possession, and getting EMU to play from a desperate place.

Defensively the game wasn't the cleanest. There were some blown coverages that led to points for the Eagles, and the defense played well enough to win. The only problem with that is there are more Penn States on the slate than there are Eastern Michigans. That is obviously something that needs to be addressed immediately.

There were some nice adjustments at halftime

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

Oh, and if you're still riding high after Army's first win this season, Sal tweeted an Ahmad Bradshaw update.


Army 0-3

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A couple of things dawned on me during this game. The first took me by surprise how much this team reminds me of Rich Ellerson's first season 2009.
I mean that very much in the sense of how the roster is composed now with an eye on the future makeup of the team. We can look at the mix of youth and experience, but I got to thinking about what that team needed in order to succeed in the following years.

Leadership on the field - This team will always be loaded with leaders. What Army needs is most players making plays. Converting big plays whether it's on offense or defense will make the difference in every game. Army was one missed play away from stealing that game just as they were one big play from tying an ACC team.

Teamwork - What I see in this area is where Coach Monken is paying off. Things like knowing the plays and trusting the offense this team has down pretty well. The team's collective focus clearly has the team headed in a positive direction and this year's players should be just as excited as the fans that this team is going to achieve some great things.

It is the things like running off the field at halftime that demonstrate that collective focus. In Army, I see a team who operates with a tremendous amount of pride. A proud team runs to the locker room at the half and finishes plays smartly and with power. Pride itself won't keep you from jumping offside, but it is the commitment of the player to improve himself where the same pride can make a difference.

Another thing that I realized after this weekend was that we are already at that point of the season where I can compare Army to Pitt. Every year I end up making some sort of comparison between Army and my Alma Mater. Saturday, both teams lost close games, both teams showed great growth, they both played their way back into games and both looked like they were headed to OT but Iowa kicked a 57 yard FG to beat Pitt and we watched Mike Weaver kick Wake Forest ahead of Army in the final seconds.

Losses are not good, but both teams have big time positives that they can take out of their respective games. They both played enough to win, in Army's case one INT at the end could have breathed life into the season. This season is not just about getting in position to win games but also individuals learning how to make the plays that win games.

Pitt is set up for a nice season. I know they lost James Conner, but they finally have a QB. They play their road games in the 1st half of the season and Heinz Field is not very inviting in late October in Pittsburgh. The Panthers are right to raise expectations even in a loss - all because they found a quarterback who can make plays down the field.

For Army the luxury is being able to look ahead to next year. Guys like Timpf and and Bradshaw are going to get their plays. Enjoy their contributions this year and understand these are the leadership moments that guys like Trent that need to happen early and often in order to win consistently next year. So forget about next year for now, as I said the team's stars are going to get their plays and there still is a lot of football still to be played this season. By all means enjoy the season; this team is building for something bigger.

Here's your Army/Wake Forest story, stats, and highlights.



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