September 17, 2012

Army Offense Does Their Part

On Saturday versus Northern Illinois the Army offense was back to the impressive antics that all of the Black Knight fans are familiar with. The offense was led by senior quarterback Trent Steelman, fullback Larry Dixon, and running back Raymond Maples. Each of these players rush for over 100 yards on the ground, which is the first time an Army team has produced three players with 100 yards rushing in the same game since 1996. These three combined with help from Terry Baggett, Jon Crucitti, and Stephen Fraser to produce Army's 486 overall yards rushing.

The Black Knights have proven that they can not only move the ball, but that they can put points on the board. Although scoring on over half of their drives (6-11), the offense could not come up with enough points needed to take down the Huskies of NIU. Many critics point to Army's meager 8 yards in the air as a major hindrance to victory in Saturday's contest. While this chillingly low number seems to hurt the offensive stats, it actually has very little effect.

If the offense isn't broken, then why fix it? The offense stuck to what they do best: running the triple option. Throughout the course of the game, the Huskies showed that they really didn't have an answer for the triple threat of Steelman, Dixon, and Maples. Additionally, the Army offensive line made very few mistakes up front and opened tons of holes for the Black Knights group of running backs, along with their QB to power through against a much larger NIU defensive line. Likewise, while Crucitti and Fraser combined for only 5 carries, they contributed by making great blocks on the outside allowing for Steelman and Maples to turn the corner and get up field.
Turnovers Game Last week against San Diego State, the Black Knights tragically lost the turnover margin against the Aztecs. However, on Saturday the Army team managed to turn the table on the turnover battle. While last week the Knights were -3 on turnovers, this week the defense helped put the Knights in the positive (+3). The Army faithful were happy to see the errors associated with the center-quarterback exchange nearly eradicated. Eliminating the mental errors that lead to turnovers helped the offense put points on the board this week as they made the most out of every drive. Thus far, Army's first two games have produced 35 penalty yards.

However, there were points in Saturday's contest that the Army offense seemed disorganized. In the first half, the Black Knights took all three timeouts in the first quarter, one being on the first play from scrimmage. With every 4-down series being precious, especially when the Army defense was unable to slow down NIU's "O", there were many occasions when the offense punished themselves with illegal shift penalties and delay of game penalties that seemed to be a result of disorganization. These infractions led to several 3rd and long situations, which the offense converted on just over 50% (9-17), compared to the Huskies near perfect 3rd down conversion rate (8-9). Five of the Army's failed conversions went to be 4th down conversion attempts where the Army offense was 60% effective (3-5).

The Black Knights matched the Huskies in touchdowns, but the failed point after attempt in the 2nd quarter created an uphill battle for the Black Knights as they were forced to go for two on ensuing point after attempts to compensate for their loss of one point. Probably more importantly, it serves to demoralize the team who should be enjoying the tides of a momentum change, but instead feel robbed of one of their many hard-earned points. Saturday's game, like every other game, was not decided by one play, but that play definitely changed the flow of the contest.

In looking to the week ahead, Army fans should be watching for the offense to work on what they have struggled with. In particular, the Army fans will be looking to see how the passing game responds after a feeble 8 yard game this week, especially with Malcolm Brown back in the lineup. Also, now that the Black Knights have proven they can hold onto the ball, the hope is that turnovers will be minimal, preferably nonexistent. The running game should stay strong for next week, but the big question will be the status of Terry Baggett as he did not play the balance of game due to an unannounced leg injury, after racking up three (impressive) rushes during the 1st series of the ball game.

Will Baggett be seen next week at Wake Forest or will he miss the next couple contest?

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