The Army Black Knights are finally playing at a level reasonably close to what they had hoped for when this season began. Changes on the offensive line and the leadership of Jeff Monken, among other things, have enabled this team to improve in the second half of the season.
This is exactly what anyone would hope to see from a West Point football team: resilience in the face of difficulty and struggle. As was the case against Massachusetts this previous weekend, Army should not face a lot of difficulty and struggle against the Virginia Military Institute. The Keydets have allowed at least 40 points in three of their last four games and have allowed an average of over 44 points in those four games. Army isn’t merely facing an FCS opponent; it is facing a relatively weak FCS opponent.
Victory won’t be a problem for Army. Doing things to prepare for Hawaii on Nov. 30 and set up the remainder of the season are more paramount for the Black Knights.
1 – Establish the fullback dive
This is not a problem so much as a point of emphasis. There is a difference between the two, or at least, there isn’t necessarily overlap. They can be mutually exclusive.
UMass players remarked after their loss to Army that they were focused on the fullback dive but that they didn’t provide containment on the edge, which enabled Army to regularly use option pitch plays outside the tackle box which provided a large portion of the Black Knights’ offense. This is a game in which Army should try to run more between the tackles and make sure it goes into the Hawaii game knowing it can play smashmouth. Again, this isn’t a problem; Army has been more authoritative in its offensive line play this month, and the running game is definitely in better shape than it previously was. Nevertheless, the outside pitch game carried the offense against UMass. Let’s see a different point of emphasis against VMI.
2 – Minimal plays
This is the classic “shorten the game” scenario for a favored team. Sometimes teams need to shorten the game as an underdog, to keep the ball away from a powerful, high-octane offense. This is a case in which the heavy favorite needs to shorten the game, in order to reduce the chance of injury and maximize the chances that Army will have a fully healthy team heading to Hawaii and then to the game against Navy. Running the play clock down (after getting an early lead, of course) and using fewer pass plays for Hawaii to study on film should be core components of Army’s approach to this game against VMI.
3 – Back Seven Answers
Hawaii loves to throw the ball. Army might not get tested by VMI’s offense, but nevertheless, this is a game in which Monken – if uncomfortable with what he has – should try to find answers about his secondary and its readiness to make the right decisions. Making sure Army’s secondary shows good instincts heading into the Hawaii game is important for Monken to achieve, given that the Hawaii game carries significant bowl implications for the Black Knights.