Sunday, September 18, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army vs. UTEP

Folks, that is a win!

It's a little tricky to analyze a game like last night's because when you win 66-14, the essential analysis is that Army's game plan worked.  The offense did exactly what it was supposed to do, and the defense did what it's supposed to do, and special teams even had a strip-fumble/score.  This game was an ass-whuppin', plain and simple.

What is there to talk about?

I'll be interested to see what COL Crane has to say this week in his post-game write-up.  If you're not already on his mailing list and want to be, hit me privately, and I'll let you know how to get on it.  Crane was my favorite professor at the Academy, and he's still teaching me.  That's kind of how life is in the West Point Community.

For what it's worth, I have four take-aways, two positive, one negative, one statistical.

1.  UTEP went all-in to stop the Fullback Dive, but they never really got it done.  At times they slowed the Dive, but this required a full commitment by their defense, plus they put a linebacker on the pitchman, especially in the second half.  This left no one to cover the quarterback, and behold, all three QBs ran absolutely wild.  It was most obvious when Chris Carter came in during the second half and started using the run/pass option on the outside, but we saw it early, too.  Add in an effective but sparsely used passing threat, and this offense just kept making plays.

2.  We can really see the growth of Ahmad Bradshaw now, and I'd like to take moment to appreciate it.  Compare Bradshaw's play to that of plebe QB Malik McGue.  McGue is essentially where Bradshaw was last year, and if he has a better arm, he lacks Bradshaw's physicality and quickness in the running game.  Nevertheless, he has an interesting and useful skillset for the triple-option.  McGue dropped a snap last night and also mistimed a pitch, resulting in a fumble which on this particular night still went for positive yardage.  Last year, that would have been a turnover, followed by disaster.  This is not meant as criticism, but I think it's fair to say that McGue is still very much a work-in-progress.

My point here is that this offense is not at all easy to run.  Bradshaw's growth has therefore been very impressive.

For what it's worth, I think McGue throws a beautiful ball.  He might not be ready to run the Army offense against elite opponents right now, but I enjoyed watching him play last night and getting a feel for the kinds of physical tools he has.  McGue is a fine player; he just needs to spend more time running the triple-option.  We saw last year that it's a lot harder than it looks.

Also worth noting: Coach Monken has really upped the caliber of Army's recruits.

3.  The defensive game plan was obvious in hindsight: shut down RB Aaron Jones and put pressure on QB Zack Greenlee.  We said before the game that Army could afford to give up some passing yards if they stopped Jones, and that's exactly what happened, save that they also put so much pressure on Greenlee that they really didn't give up that many passing yards, either.

My note, then, is that if that's your game plan, you absolutely cannot let UTEP receivers get behind you if you're an Army cornerback.  They did, however--several times.  Some of those passes fell incomplete, but there were plays to be made here, Greenlee just didn't have time to make them.

I'm not really complaining here because there was an obvious game plan at play, and at a certain level, I think Army wanted to dare UTEP to throw.  In this particular game, there was only one player on the field who was going to really hurt them, and it was not Greenlee.  As we saw, when Army bottled Aaron Jones, the wheels came straight off of UTEP's offense.  Furthermore, I doubt this downfield coverage issue will show itself against Buffalo next week.  After that, however, Army will have a bye week, and they had better spend some time ironing out their deep secondary play.  Duke definitely has enough talent to make them pay over the top.  In past years, downfield passing has absolutely killed Army.

4.  ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) has finally caught up with Army's season.  As of this writing, Army is ranked 59th of 128 FBS team based on statistics, approximately 2.6 points better than an "average" FBS team.  FPI has Army just ahead of Wake Forest, and oh by the way, the 3-0 Demon Deacons are having a pretty damned good season.  They beat Duke convincingly just last week on the road.

In terms of efficiency:
 -- Army's offense is 9th.
 -- Army's defense is 34th.
 -- The team overall is 16th.

Texas beat UTEP 41-7 at home without Zack Greenlee, who is by far UTEP's best quarterback.  Army beat that same UTEP team on the road with their start QB by a score of 66-14.

How good is this Army team?

We don't know.  They haven't been pushed yet.

Go Army!  Beat Buffalo!!!

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