Sunday, October 15, 2017

Quick Thoughts: Army Stuffs Eastern Michigan

That was a good game.  I said last week that this EMU team was better than their record indicated, and that proved correct.  Granted, Army missed a couple of opportunities to pull away, and the Eagles got a few extremely fortuitous breaks to keep the game close, but overall, if you went to Michie Stadium to watch a football game yesterday, you sure as shit got your money's worth.

I apologize in advance for the editing.  I have a lot to do today.
I had a bigger crew than usual for the game.  My buddy Chris came up from Ft. Hood with his son, and my buddy Gabe came along as well, and he brought his son, too.  The Class of 1997 was also in the house for their reunion over the weekend, so I got to see some old friends from the Army Swim Team.

I had a great day.

Grilling out.
Davis barracks. 
Late in the game with Army Swimming, Class of 1997.
We got to Thayer roof a few minutes before 10 am.  We set up two tables and had a bunch of folding chairs with us, but with just five dudes, we mostly stood around either drinking beer (adults) or running around like maniacs (kids).  I grilled brats and hot dogs but forgot ketchup and mustard.  They were okay.  Also brought some Two Roads Expressway coffee stout and Road 2 Ruin double IPA, and Gabe brought some beer as well.  By the time we set out for the stadium, we were already feelin' in.

We stopped by Grant Hall on our way to the stadium, realized that the Cadet Areas were open because of the reunion, and wound up hoofing it to the stadium via the (new) back stairs up from Davis barracks.

Beautiful building!  Man, it's just gorgeous up there.  By the time we hit the Cadet Chapel, Gabe's son Remy was asking what he had to do to get an appointment to West Point.  He's a freshman in high school with good grade.  I told him to start with a varsity letter from the track team.

Cadet Chapel
Me, Chris, and his son Aiden.
We got to the stadium just before the parachute demonstration, saw the line for security, and walked around to the uphill entrance on Michie's back side.  I should probably do that more.  My seats are on that side anyway, and the line was WAY shorter.  We wound up watching the parachutists from the hill overlooking the stadium, but we were settled in our seats by kickoff.

The first half was a very even affair.  Army forced Eastern Michigan to drive the field in chunks, but the Eagles played clean, managed a balanced offense, and scored to go up 7-0.  EMU went 75 yards in 8 plays, running 3:22 off the clock.  They scored on a 15 pass for WR Sergio Bailey II.  Bailey finished with 99 yards receiving, having played a phenomenal game.  Army answered with a long scoring drive of its own, tying it at 7-7.  Typical Black Knights.  They ran 14 plays, went 93 yards, and nearly finished the first quarter after having held the ball for nearly 9 minutes.

EMU has been committed to their running game all year despite having a not-overwhelming amount of success with it.  Yesterday, they managed 135 yards on 26 carries (5.2 yards/carry), and if you just consider the statistics of that, it remains a significant issue for the Black Knights' defense.  Really, though, Army forced EMU into some 3rd-and-long and 4th-and-long situations that looked truly desperate.  QB Brogan Roback and his receivers, though, made several miraculous plays to keep drives alive, and as much as anything, it was these kinds of gunslinging heroics that kept this game closer than it might've been otherwise.

You'd like to see Army get off the field on a play like that, but the truth is that sometimes the other guys makes a play, too.  Roback made at least three like that yesterday, and those plays were very nearly the difference in the game.

Look, EMU lost to a good Kentucky team on blocked punts.  They lost to Toledo because Roback threw a late pick in the end zone.  That's fine, but those were nip-and-tuck games, lost on last second plays.  Army's game was the same, and that's about what we should  have expected.  There's no shame in that.  In fact, I think Army showed good resiliency yesterday.  Having dropped four heartbreakers in a row, however, the Eagles had better do some soul-searching if they want to right the ship and get back to a bowl game.

It's worth pointing out here how good these EMU receivers were yesterday.  They were very good.  Contrast that to Army receivers, who had two egregious drops.

During the jump.
Michie Stadium and the Corps
Army missed several chances to pull ahead yesterday, the first of which came late in the first half.  Tied 14-14, the Black Knights finally forced an EMU punt, getting the ball on their own 9.  But then EMU forced their first punt, sending the Black Knights off after a 3-and-out.  Roback made his only mistake of the day three plays later, putting an interception into the hands of LB Cole Christiansen.  Army had the ball at their own 48 with 2:40 left in the first half.  Bradshaw threw deep to SB John Trainor, and I think it was a good pass because it was out where only Trainor had a chance to make a play on it, but Trainor couldn't quite make the play.  My buddy Chris was mad.  "That's terrible.  He should have been full gas from the start of that play.  He could have had that!"

That's true.

Kell Walker broke off a 12-yard run, and despite the time, it looked like Army maybe had a shot at a late field goal.  Two more yards took the ball to the EMU 33 with about a minute left and 2 timeouts.  Chris and I both wanted to run a couple of plays and try to kick, knowing that both defenses were struggling, and Army was getting the ball to start the second half.  Coach Monken, however, took three shots deep.  All fell incomplete.  Bradshaw got WR Jeff Ejekam one-on-one on the left side and put the ball on target but Ejekam couldn't come down with it.  That was Army's best shot.

Imagine for a moment how that series would've gone with a guy like Sergio Bailey II at wide receiver for Army.  Really, that's what this Army team is missing this year.

Touchdown!  Fire the cannons!
The team needed a lift, so Sally put on her shirt & sent me this picture.
We saw it again early in the second half.  Army had 3rd-and-21 from its own 48, gained 9 yards, and decided to punt from the EMU 43.  I said, "Watch for the fake," and damn if that's not what we saw.  Coach Monken ran former high school quarterback P Zach Potter out for the kick, and he threw a perfect strike to WR Justin Thomas Jr., who dropped a game-changing completion that hit him square in the hands, right on the numbers.

Fucking terrible.  I mean, that was God awful.

Had Army lost yesterday, I would have said that this was the play that cost them the game.  As it was, Army got a close fought victory against a good team, but it was closer than it had to be because of that play.

When the other team is playing lights-out offense, you really have to take advantage of every opportunity.  Army got an interception that they should have turned into a field goal, and they had a perfectly executed fake punt that they should have turned into a touchdown, and with that, they should have won this game by 10 points.  Instead... drama.

That's okay.  But if you're talking statistics, well, this is why the statistics were what they were.  Army's defense struggled a bit against Brogan Roback and company, but although it looked like Roback was throwing all over the field, really, he went 19/27 passing for just 229 yards.  That's 50 less than normal for EMU.  But Roback also threw for 4 touchdowns.  Sure, EMU also ran for 50 more yards than normal but considering Army's time-of-possession advantage, I think the difference was as much about the Eagles trying to keep their defense from getting smashed as it was about anything the Black Knights themselves were giving up.

Army went up 28-21 late, and that's when all Hell broke loose.  They got EMU stopped multiple times but Roback converted on 4th-and-9, and they got one absolute gift of a pass interference call to put them in the red zone.  They scored, and I thought we were going to overtime.  Instead, they decided to go for the win.  Given the trouble Army's defense had stopping them, this was probably the right call, especially since by that point, Army was also running at will against EMU.

This was actually maddening.  Army got the stop, but then it turned out that EMU had somehow called timeout before the play went off, effectively giving them a second chance at the try.  No word on why the officials didn't stop play for the timeout, but they did that twice in the 4th quarter, both times after Army defensive stands, to the point where I personally started wondering if the refs were shaving points.  It was egregious, really.  But S James "Gibby" Gibson got the stop on arguably his best play as a Black Knight, and here we are.  Euphoria!

Afterwards, we toured the Trophy Point and the library.  That was cool.

Gabe & Remy
Class of 95 Reading Room in the library
From the Library's observation deck. 
West Point
Next week, Army takes on a wounded Temple team that's coming off a bad loss to woeful UConn.  Statistically, Temple and Eastern Michigan look similar, and Temple has the better record.  However, they are by no means the better team.

Anything is possible, but I'm looking for Army to win and become bowl eligible.

Go Army!  Beat Temple!!!

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