The Army Black Knights won a game by 32 points this past weekend, but it was far from a complete performance. It is true that a game against an FCS opponent (Abilene Christian) offers plenty of opportunities for backups to play, giving them meaningful experience and forcing them to react in the heat of live game action.
One shouldn’t expect perfection from those backups, especially after a pandemic offseason in which practice and preparation were not able to occur under remotely normal circumstances. Nevertheless, it remains that Abilene Christian scored three second-half touchdowns against Army’s defense. Sure, the outcome had long been decided, but three touchdowns remain three touchdowns.
As Army shifts to another FCS opponent this Saturday, the Black Knights know what needs to be on their to-do list:
1 – Playing to the end is not just for teams which trail on the scoreboard
This game key is meant to express the point that every play in a football game (except for running out the clock at the very, very end) is urgent. A defense needs to take pride in not allowing three garbage-time touchdowns. One cosmetic touchdown is one thing, but Army allowed three. Yes, backups were involved, and it’s not a crisis by any means, but this is a real teaching tool for coach Jeff Monken. If any starter gets injured later in the year, and it’s “next man up,” the Army backups who struggled against Abilene Christian need to sharpen their reactions and improve their performance. That point aside, Army’s effort level and concentration need to maintain a certain level throughout the year. Being comparatively inattentive – even if it didn’t have anything to do with who won or lost against Abilene Christian – could emerge as a concern against better opponents later this fall. Army needs to use this game against The Citadel as an on-ramp to the UTSA game the following week. UTSA is a decent team, so Army has to really sharpen up on defense, and that means playing hard to the end… even in victory. A cutthroat mindset doesn’t just happen; it is cultivated through the development of the right habits.
2 – Sack attack
Army sacked Abilene Christian quarterbacks three times this past weekend, but only once after the Wildcats’ first two drives. Getting a more consistent pass rush from more players up and down the depth chart will be important for the Army defense in the future, as the quality of the opposition rises. This game against The Citadel needs to provide a significant boost to the pass rush and Army’s overall ability to stymie opposing passing attacks.
3 – Third downs
Army’s offense was just 3 of 11 on third downs against Abilene Christian. Yes, the Black Knights faced only 11 third downs, not 15 or 20, a sign of how well they moved the ball in general. Yes, they converted two fourth downs, which means they were essentially 5 of 11 and not 3 of 11. Nevertheless, Army ought to be better on third downs against an FCS opponent. That stat needs to be improved by a considerable margin against The Citadel.