Saturday, October 24, 2015

Quick Take-Aways: at Rice

I hate to say it, but this may have been Army's best game of the season.  That probably sounds crazy considering the score, but Rice is one of the better teams on Army's schedule, and this game was closer than it had any right to be.  True, Army put the ball on the ground early and gave away seven points that they badly needed later, but here's the truth: this Army team is very young.  Half the team is plebes, and there are a lot of injuriess, and they were led today by their back-up quarterback.  The team's best defensive player hasn't dressed for a single game all season.  Rice doesn't have the world's greatest defense, but they were extremely well-prepared to stop the triple-option after their bye week, and yet Army still found a way to score 31 points.

In this season, we have to take the good where we can find it.

For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like the offense let this game slip away via lack of execution.  In fact, if I had to name one thing that really cost Army the win, it's that they couldn't get off the field on 3rd-and-long, especially early in the second half.  For two seasons, we've seen the Black Knights give up a lot of completions over the middle of the field, and we saw that again today.  More than anything else, this is why the team lost.  The defense is better this year, and that is a--very--good thing, but they have a weakness, and there are some teams out there that can exploit that weakness.  Rice is one of those teams.

Rice drove strong on the opening drive, scored, and then put up another seven points a minute later thanks to an A.J. Schurr fumble.  Fumbles suck, but that was the only really aggregious one all day.  And I have to be honest--I thought this team was dead in the water after that dreadful start.  In past years, they would have been.

The other thing that drove me crazy was all the long passing plays on first down.  I get that this year's team needs to pass and that Schurr gives them better passing flexibility under center.  However, the long, low-percentage throws were uniformly wasted today, which wasn't exactly surprising considering that the game itself was played in the foreward edge of a hurricane.  Army needs a high-percentage completion play where they can get the ball to Trainor or Asburry in space, but if that's in the playbook, we've not seen it much.  Either a crossing route or a quick out that works like a long pitch.  Instead, we keep getting these deep balls to Poe, and he's a fine receiver, he really is, but the quarterback hasn't been at all accurate with his throws--in two seperate weeks!  Last week we saw two interceptions and one narrowly avoided disaster.  This week we saw a lot of overthrown balls.  What we haven't seen is evidence that these long sideline routes can work with any reliability.

Finally, Aaron Kemper is without question the best fullback on this team.  At the end of the game, he always seems to be the difference maker out there, but he's not starting.  That is a problem.

We've got a bye week coming up  and then a game at Air Force.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the Air Force game is gonna be a barn-burner.

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