The 2019 season is getting worse, not better, for Army, which badly needs to snap out of its rut against San Jose State. A team which is in the middle of a really bad slump can’t reinvent the wheel.
By Matt Zemek
The basics must come back for Army to win this game and eventually track down a bowl bid.
1 – Get it right
Blocking. Tackling. The pass rush. Army continues to fail to master the essential components of football. If it was easy, the coaching staff would have figured out a way to get it done. Players would have worked hard enough to arrive at solutions and apply them. General overall competence has been elusive for this team, which – for whatever reason – has not been able to mesh on either side of the ball this season. Is this team playing with too much pressure, feeling that it has to defend or preserve what the 2018 team established? This group needs to play for itself, not for anyone or anything else.
It is hard to expect large-scale adjustments on either side of the ball when Army hasn’t shown that it can win with a reduced playbook or its base defense. This season has become a pursuit not of excellence, but of being able to play the right way. Army has to find that standard, establish it, and maintain it. Everything else is window dressing, peripheral to what the Black Knights need to get from these next several weeks of competition.
2 – Popping the big one
It is true that the triple option offense is meant to create and then convert third and two or fourth and one situations, which enables an offense to control the ball and wear down an opposing defense. However, part of the process of wearing down a defense is to make that defense mentally weary. The act of having to stand against the triple option play after play doesn’t just wear on a defense in terms of ball control or the inability to stop third and short. The other big ingredient the triple option is supposed to bring to the table is that the constant challenge of making the right defensive reads will lead to a failure at some point. The triple option’s diversity creates a guessing game for defenses, and when mental fatigue sets in, a safety or linebacker makes the wrong read, and boom – 60-yard touchdown run.
The big play isn’t the cornerstone of the triple option, but it does flow from wearing down an opponent and causing a lack of focus in the back seven, which leads to a long-distance scoring play in a critical situation. Army got those plays in previous seasons, but it hasn’t gained nearly enough of them this year. This is what the Black Knights need against San Jose State.
3 – Third downs
Army’s defense has to get off the field, and it has to prevent opposing offenses from finding the kind of rhythm Georgia State enjoyed last week. The rhythm of an offense is something Army counts on owning for itself. Instead, opponents have had far more offensive rhythm this year. That must change against San Jose State.