Sunday, October 16, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Army vs. Lafayette

It's hard not to like a game like that.  Army put up 671 yards of offense including 537 yards rushing.  They won 62-7.

Check the scoreboard.
If you missed the game, the highlights are below.  I thought Bradshaw looked really, really good running the offense today.  Carter threw for two scores as well, but one of those was into tight double coverage.  His other touchdown throw was a deep throw to Jordan Asberry on which Asberry made a great adjustment to go get the ball.  Plebe QB Malik McGue played the fourth quarter and looked good as well.  He still has a tendency to try to make too many plays himself, I think, but he had a couple of nice pitches, and the FB Dive was there when he went to it. 

Our day started early.  I wanted to get away by about 7:30, so that we could try to hit Thayer Gate by 9:00, but as usual, we hit some SNAFUs early.  Among other things, we were on the Interstate before I realized that I'd left the tickets and--more importantly--my parking pass sitting on a book shelf in my library.  We still got away around 8:00, but traffic at Thayer Gate is like a wave, especially when games are sold out.  If you don't get ahead of that wave, you're liable to get crushed by it.

We wound up sitting in traffic for about twenty minutes before I lost my patience, drove up near Stony Lonesome, turned back south, and wound through the north side of Highland Falls, outflanking the line on Thayer Road.  That was way faster.  I should probably do it far more often.

Chow time!
Taken with the Selfie Stick on Thayer Roof.
Sally and Elizabeth.
What was aggravating was that security wasn't doing a very good job of getting cars in the right lanes once they got on Post.  About half the cars in front of us needed to get into Buffalo Soldier Field, presumably for post-game tailgates, but they'd come on Post in the right hand land.  Which meant that both lanes of traffic had to stop while guys pulled across into an already crowded lot.  I park on Thayer Roof, which always seems to surprise everyone, but once we got past the jam at BSF, it was smooth sailing.

We finally got set around 10.  We set up our table, started making omelets, and only then did I realize that I'd forgotten matches.  Chaos ensued, but we were--eventually--saved by a fellow tailgater who actually had some matches.  If you're wondering, it turns out that almost no one smokes anymore.

Our friends Colin and Elizabeth (@smallstate) came with us to the game.  They brought this beautifully smoked bacon, some fruit, and drinks while I made omelets.  We also had some muffins.  We learned the hard way that one of the burners on my camp stove has a faulty fitting--we damned near blew ourselves off the side of Thayer Roof--but though this put us down to one burner, we eventually made coffee as well.  Yay coffee!

Fed and finally caffeinated, we quickly cleaned up started the hike up to Michie Stadium.  I gave running commentary on the various buildings and monuments--that's always my favorite part of bringing new people to West Point.  Security was mobbed getting into the stadium, but it moved okay, and I saw my old friend Stein in the line.  Stein was a year behind me at school and a fellow swimmer.  He yelled, "Hey!  Mr. 200 Butterfly!" and then we started catching up.  I lost him in the press getting into the game itself, but it was awesome to see him.  He looked good, and he has a beautiful family.  It always amazes me how happy and successful all of the Old Grads have become.

Elizabeth took this shot during the game.
The Corps of Cadets
We were just getting through the gate as the parachute demonstration started, but we made it to our seats right before kickoff.  The game was a full-on rout.  I think Lafayette had less than ten plays total on the plus-side of the fifty yard line.  The Leopards have a decent short passing game, and they completed some passes to the outside, but they couldn't get enough protection to go deep, and the cornerbacks did a good job of limiting runs-after-the-catch.  Army's secondary is still susceptible to long passing plays, but the linebacking corps is getting good pressure, which helps a lot against those downfield throws.  On the other side, the offense gained an average of ten yards per play from the very beginning, and then Bradshaw broke one down the sideline, and it was never close after that.  

Bradshaw looked really good out there yesterday.  He ran and pitched with authority, I thought all of his pitches were on target a week after being a bit behind the runners against Duke, and he threw the ball very well.  His touchdown pass to Jeff Ejekam in particular was in exactly the right spot.  Yes, it was high, but as Bradshaw himself said after the game, Ejekam has an excellent vertical, and that placement meant that Army's receiver was the only player who had a chance at the ball.  By comparison, Chris Carter threw the ball a bit more, but he also let a drive get away from him at the end of the 2nd quarter, he had at last one short pitch, and he threw into double coverage on a pass that still went for a touchdown.  That was fine against Lafayette, but I wouldn't want to try that particular read against anybody else remaining on the schedule.

Go Army!
The cheerleaders did a lot of push-ups.
It's fun to watch Bradshaw and Carter when they both get enough time to run the offense with some effect because despite the fact that they are running the same set of plays, they run those plays very differently.  Bradshaw is the more elusive runner inside, and because of this, his play-action fakes always freeze the defense for a moment, giving him at least a little time to throw.  He also looks downfield much more, which is why this team has missed Edgar Poe so badly these past few weeks.  Poe has an amazing catching radius, and to quote Coach Monken, "Bradshaw's never going to be Dan Marino back there."  Bradshaw also forces defenses to react to him, which tends to open up the pitch outside.  By contrast, Carter makes much more extensive use of the slotbacks in the passing game, which is hard to defend when you're also worried about the FB Dive.  It's no accident that Carter's best pass of the day went to slotback Jordan Asberry, for all that Asberry ran a route deep.  Carter also runs decisively inside, so that when he gets loose, it's often for a big gain.

We sang the Alma Mater after the game and then headed for the exit, catching plebe drummer Mary Kate as she herself was headed for the trucks back to the Cadet Area.  Mary Kate is the niece of Elizabeth's friend from grad school, and it turns out that she is also a second generation female cadet.  So yes, she followed her mother to West Point.  Elizabeth got a charge out of that.

Elizabeth has her very own plebe.
Next week, we are on to North Texas.  It'll be Army's second home game in a row, but the Mean Green are a much improved squad from a year ago.  Honestly, next to the Navy and the Air Force game, next week's game is perhaps the most important game remaining on the schedule.  Look for the preview on Wednesday.  I'll be there with my daughter Emma.

Go Army!  Beat North Texas!!!

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