Road Warriors

Saturday, October 9, 2010



"WHAT A RUSH!" is right.
Army's 274  Rush yards per game and even more stunning 30.6 points per game, are beyond the wildest dreams of anyone who watched the Black knights through 6 games last year.

The Black Knights' rushing attack began Saturday 9th in the NCAA and looks sure to move up with a season high 312 rush yards.


"We are running the ball well and we are being opportunistic," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "I think that our guys are playing a little bit better in different phases each week. We are doing a great job on the turnover battle. When you do that, you've got a great chance to win. It's hard to overcome something like four to one."


The takeaways are something worth mentioning. They've become something of a trend, and it's not so much how the Black Knights have been forcing turnovers as much as where they have been getting these loose balls. In each game this season Army has forced turnovers and benefited from a short field.
It's not something we can expect every week, and as much as I wanted to add Army's + turnover ratio in the game preview, there is just no way to count on that kind of good fortune. Luck like that is the kind of thing that makes or breaks teams, and Army is either lucky or highly skilled at knocking balls loose or both.

-Eastern Michigan fumbled a 3rd Quarter kickoff on their own 32.
-North Texas gave Army the football in the 2nd Quarter on their own 14
-Hawaii coughed up the ball on their own 27 in the 3rd Quarter.
-Duke started the game with a pick that was run back to the Duke 3 yard lime
-Temple dropped the opening kickoff and subsequently gave up the early lead.

Saturday's Tulane game saw TU cough the ball up at their own 36 leading to Army's 2nd touchdown and on the following kickoff they lost the ball again much to the (hilarious) dismay of the Tulane play by play guys.
Army burns 2+ minutes of clock going nowhere in particular... kicks the field goal to make it 17-7. The following kickoff was also fumbled and recovered by the Black Knights eliciting a noticeable roar from the Army fans in attendance.


You can chalk that kind of stuff up to luck and maybe Army has been due for some good fortune, but when it happens so often and at such fortunate spots on the field and on the game clock... Army has to be doing something right.

I'll hit the local coverage later in the week, but for now- your Army/Tulane story, stats and highlights.

Army/Tulane Internet Availability

I will update this post when things are squared away, but there should be a free stream available for this one.

 
Check the Radio Tab above for availability.






_

That's a Relief

Friday, October 8, 2010

Word is out that the Army/Tulane game will be made available online. www.TulaneGreenWave.com is airing the game on pay per view. At the very least we will have the option of pay-per-view access, at best we will be able to find a free stream online. You will know what I find before game time.

I was taken aback a bit by guest poster Frank Helps You Think It All Out's game prediction. It had me scrambling around looking at stat pages and game by game records... and I still don't see his angle.
Eduardo Gonzalez of New Orleans.com is a little more cautious.

Toledo, however, has some concerns about this week’s opponent. Despite last week’s big road victory, he believes his team will have to work even harder to beat resurgent Army (3-2).
“Offensively, they run the wishbone basically. They run a double-eagle flex defense that (Army coach Rick Ellerson) installed when he was at Arizona. They called it the `Desert Swarm' at that time,” he said. “I've coached against Rich numerous times, and I'll tell you what, it's the single most difficult defense we faced. It's hard to do much against it.”
Another factor Toledo believes he will have to take into consideration is clock management and making their possessions count.
“They keep the ball away from you. They give you about 10 possessions a game. Normally, we're used to about 13 possessions a game,” he said. “They keep the ball for 35 minutes and you get it for 25 minutes, so they get it for 10 more minutes than you do. It's frustrating.”



When Phil Steele posted his game picks it allowed me to settle down enough to stop biting my nails.


Saturday, October 9      3:30 PM
                                 Phil         Computer       Computer         Weekly 
                               Steele          Points             Yards                Poll
Army at Tulane      Army           Army               Army                Army 
                                 by 7           26-18             324-266              69% 




Unless something unexpected happens I should have a link to the live stream posted under the Radio tab tomorrow AM.

Check back before game time, and I'll keep you updated on how to see the game.




_

Q&A with Frank Helps You Think It All Out

I've agreed to do a guest post/Q&A with the Tulane Blog Frank Helps You Think It All Out. This post features his answers to my questions while my answers to his questions can be found here.

TUL: The perception is that Tulane is an improved team from the squad they brought up to West
Point in 2009. Last year's 3-9 team found wins against McNeese, Army and UTEP. This year the Green Wave stands at 2-2 and played well in a loss against Houston. Is this an improved Tulane team, and if so - what do you think the bowl chances are this year for the Green Wave?


Frank: First, thanks for inviting me. Tulane is improved (I’ll address why below). Unfortunately, so has C-USA.
The Wave figures to beat Rice at home and plays a pair of stone toss-ups with Army and at Marshall.
Hard to imagine sweeping that slate. That gets them to four wins. Where do that fifth and sixth win come from? Tulane could do it, but needs help. Thus, unlikely.

TUL: Tulane hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard on offense – even operating out of the spread formation. I know OC Dan Dodd adds some West Coast/Pro Set offense into the mix- do you think Tulane’s offense is close to turning the corner to where they can outscore opponents in the spread – or do you think they should commit to the pro set with a fullback/RB combo to root out yards and set up play action?

Frank: I am going to answer this question indirectly. Quick Army fans, what college football position does talent dry up quickest? Where is it hardest to find players once the BCS teams have recruited?

Many would answer “quarterback”- but that is not true (that is the NFL answer). There are a ton of competent quarterbacks in college football. The top 40 teams in college football are loaded with QBs that have no future in the NFL- but are solid college players.

I would say that the answer is defensive backs, cornerbacks in particular. First, athletes with the physical capacity to play corner are almost always shifted to offense. Second, while raw speed without size can play as a wide out, it is a real problem at corner. Most mid-major teams can’t dress good nickel and dime corners. Many of you are now shaking your head- Army’s third and fourth CBs are always problematic. C-USA teams can find four receivers, but can’t find the guys to cover them.

The spread is the natural outgrowth of this phenomenon. C-USA might not get the QB with the rocket arm. But the League gets the decent arm, high game intelligence “alternative”- Chase Clement, Kevin Kolb, Case Keenum- perfect for torturing teams that lack multiple coverage assets. So Tulane, like most of C-USA, is going to run the spread.

TUL: Four years into Bob Toledo's tenure, he seems to be getting the Green Wave back on track (albeit slowly). Rebuilding Tulane football is no small task considering how the program was ravaged after hurricane Katrina. What's your take on what Toledo is doing with the Tulane football program?

Frank: Toledo is largely irrelevant to the larger issues. Tulane almost has to get better. Their natural state in the pecking order is just not rock bottom. Damn, even third-tier recruits in Louisiana, Mississippi and East Texas should be enough to play with Marshall and UAB?

Tulane’s run through 1997-2004 was not too shabby: a top ten national ranking, a pair of Bowl victories, cheery crowds from 20-40K. The baseball team went to the CWS twice. Then Katrina gobsmacked New Orleans.

Tulane lost three recruiting classes. Coaches were not recruiting. Louisiana high schools we recruit were closed. The population dispersed. There was no money for sports and facilities. Other schools poached our recruits. And our programs simply collapsed. Army fans who remember Tulane getting drilled in 2008 can vouch to the utter lack of talent Tulane possessed.

Before Katrina, Tulane was a C-USA team that could get to a small Bowl game every few years. They could get top skill player: Shaun King, Patrick Ramsey, JP Losman, Mwelde Moore, Matt Forte. As normal reasserts itself, they’ll get back to something like that.

Programs seek their level- Coach Toledo just isn’t real relevant to the larger community recovering. If Tulane is getting better, it is because the environment is moving from “disastrous” to “ordinary”. Tulane is starting to get a few three-star recruits and good transfers from BCS schools. Since Matt Forte graduated a few years ago, they’ve had one all C-USA player. They might have six (two whom were transfers) this year.

TUL: Any thoughts on a prediction for the Army/Tulane game?

Frank: I put my full game pick up on Thursday- but briefly, I like Tulane here.

Last year, Army won most of the battles all over the field, except one. One of Tulane’s better players is DT Ponce de Leon, and he dominated the interior. It is hard to run an option offense if your guards can’t even get close to blocking the DTs- and I don’t see how Army fixes that. OG Reed and C Peterson were the same guys abused last year. Army’s offensive line splits got tighter and tighter to deal with Ponce de Leon (without effect), the Green Wave cheated more and more to the perimeter- and the running game stalled. Nothing else mattered except Army’s utter inability to block the interior.

It is just a good match-up for Tulane. I imagine you’ll have readers who will point to this or that- but nothing else matters if Army simply can’t block the area five yards from where the football is spotted.
Army probably can’t- Tulane’s DTs and MLB are the best part of the team- and Reed (okay), Peterson (not okay) and Merzi (pretty okay at guard, problematic at tackle) just aren’t a very good unit. So, the Cadets have to show me first. So they won’t score more than 21, and consequently will probably lose.




_

Quack Ballot Watchdog

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Blogpoll voting just earned its first superlative on SBNation's Blogpoll roundup. Wack Ballot? Please.

Same dude had his #4 Oregon Ducks jump Ohio State and Boise this week, so I don't think I have to pontificate on how awesome the Ducks look this year.

I am only as peeved about garnering Wack Ballot mention as I am about there not being a Totally Sweet Ballot award.

Anyway, nobody has to convince me that my top 25 is totally sweet. The Ducks will  remain #1 until they lose.


Focused on Tulane

I've been running around for the last couple of days, but luckily playing Tulane offers a feast of media coverage.

First the Army things.

This one is another payback game from last year. Last year's game really chapped my ass (yes, I have an extremely chapped ass). More than the '09 Temple game, more than last year's Duke game... to me this was that illusive 6th win that Army just missed out on.


Army's defense knows it's time to step up.

Army's defense has lost second-half leads in both of its losses. Senior middle linebacker Stephen Anderson said the defense needs to regroup more quickly after giving up big plays.

"We believe as a defense if we ever have a lead late into the third quarter, the game should be over," Anderson said. "It should be ours. That's what kind of defense that we have always been. It's frustrating as a player. It's frustrating as a captain. It's frustrating talking to coaches about it because when we are playing our dominating defense it's a great thing to see. It's fun.

Stepping up this week is made harder by the defense having to deal with little injuries through the week. Sal notes these and tells us of the status of Andrew Rodriguez.

Army junior linebacker Andrew Rodriguez, in uniform, was teaching technique to a young linebacker.
Rodriguez had back surgery last month and is out for the season.





That's a tough way to hear what we all sort of knew. Best Wishes to Rodriguez getting his mojo back.


Tulane has also had their share of injuries.

Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin felt much better Tuesday than he did the previous week. After spraining his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Houston, Griffin was in pain early last week. He was held out of yesterday's practice to let him recover from the Rutgers game, where he completed 17 of 28 passes for 140 yards. Griffin practiced Tuesday and looked pain-free, including after an unscripted collision with a running back in the backfield.

Nose guard Oscar Ponce de Leon had to stop during a one-on-one drill because of pain in his sprained right ankle. He continued with practice, but he is not listed on the depth chart for the Army game. Chris Asumnu will replace him, and Cedric Wilson will back him up. Justin Adams and Tony Bryant are running one and two at the other tackle slot. ... Third-team tight end Kevin Burris did not make the trip to Rutgers because of a knee injury and did not practice Tuesday. Brock Sanders has replaced him. ... Tailback Orleans Darkwa could return this week. Darkwa tore a tendon in his elbow in the Houston game two weeks ago and was sick with a fever Tuesday. Payten Jason is now listed as the first-team tailback, moving ahead of Albert Williams.

It's Tulane's homecoming after a big road win against Rutgers, they're looking to keep the momentum going.


“This” was the jolt to the program Tulane needed because it was as unexpected as it was impressive.
Tulane fought the good fight in losses to Ole Miss and Houston, actually had a chance to beat each of them. It failed to clear the hurdle both times. It wasn’t a surprise that the Wave was a double-figure underdog at Rutgers.

Then there is Tulane HC Bob Toledo's penchant for trick plays.


Friday the blog will host a guest post written by Frank from the Tulane blog Frank Helps You Think It All Out. Make sure to stop back to check that one out.

The Walk up to Tulane

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So, where did I leave off?

GoArmySports.com has Tulane game notes up. (pdf)


There's also a Q&A with Coach Ellerson to get you fired up for the game.


In it, Ellerson talks about staying in the moment and avoiding trying to focus on the season at large.

(Re: tuning out the distractions that come with winning)
"Your roommates, your classmates, your girlfriends, those are the voices that will start to get you thinking about something other than what's right in front of you, what's on the table. That's fun. That's seductive because it's fun to talk about that stuff. It's fun to think about those things, but that will set you up for failure if you don't handle it. We want to be gracious and we're thankful that people care and pay attention and are excited about how we're doing. Having said that, we can't believe it all. They say poison and flattery are the same thing. They can only hurt you if you swallow it. We just have to stay in the moment, stay in the present and try to turn down the volume on the outside wishful thinking and what-ifs."

Ron Mergenthaler of Examiner.com looks beyond Ellerson's mentality to what is at stake with each game.


 Clever. But with an upcoming schedule that includes, among others, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Navy, a loss Saturday to Tulane could be the beginning of the end of what had been a promising season. A victory rights the ship; a loss could sink it, or at least expedite the process.


As I said before the Temple game and before the Duke game.... win or lose this game will again shape the perception of the Black Knights. This time the stakes are higher as Army's bowl hopes hinge on this game... not that they can't beat VMI, Kent and Air Force or Rutgers - but the margin for error dissolves with each loss. That's what makes the Temple comeback so crushing. A 4-1 Army team is en route to a bowl. At 3-2 There are still some tough questions the team has to answer. Army's 6th test comes in New Orleans against a game Tulane team.

The players don't have the luxury to look at the big picture during the season, but perceptions are shaped while the games are played, so credit to Ellerson for keeping his guys focused, but getting a win out of this game is huge.

As could be expected, the Tulane/Army game won't be televised. Kind of heartbreaking, as this will be the second game in a row that I won't get to see - but nowhere near as disappointing as the news that Army/Rutgers isn't going to be televised.
I wonder if Tulane knocking off Rutgers had anything to do with the decision to not air the Rutgers/Army game. If so, that's another clear case of "be careful what you wish for". I'll have some workbook activities and coloring books to keep you all engaged during the untelevised game.

______

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe in Bloglines

Subscribe in a reader