October 28, 2012

Army looking for answers as Air Force approaches

Hayden Tries - Can't Tip-It in Army's Favor

The Black Knights lost yesterday to a much larger Ball State 30-22, making the series between the schools tied at two each. The Cardinals have beaten the Black Knights the past two seasons. While last year Ball State won handily on their home turf, although on Saturday Army put up a much more honorable fight at their rockbound highland home.

Yesterday the Black Knights' offense registered 379 yards of total offense. Of those yards, 341 yards were on the ground, and of course the meager 38 yards of passing is typical of the Army offense, leaving all the work to be done by the rushing game. Quarterback Trent Steelman rushed for an unsurprising 101 yards over 17 carries. Perhaps more surprising was the performance by junior fullback, Hayden Tippett.

The junior rushed for a career high 100 yards and his 2nd career touchdown. Tippett was stepping in for sophomore fullback Larry Dixon who continues to battle a groin injury and played a very limited amount in Saturday's contest. Tippett's performance showed that he is definitely a more than capable "option" at fullback and should get more looks the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, slotback Raymond Maples did not have his usual 100 yard game, as it appeared that Ball State was willing to live with Tippett's inside runs, along with Steelman's ability to hit the creases. Although the overall numbers suggest that the Army offense was at full force, an ineffective Maples doesn't bode well for the Black Knights. The offense did receive production from slotbacks Malcolm Brown and Trenton Turrentine, who both contributed 43 yards on the ground. Brown also scored Army's touchdown in the fourth quarter giving Army some life and cutting the deficit to seven, in the 4th quarter.

The Black Knights Self-Destruct

At times throughout Saturday's contest it seemed as if the Black Knights were battling themselves. Defensively, Army gave up two quick touchdowns that forced them to play catch up for the rest of the game. At the end of the 2nd quarter it seemed as if the Black Knights were going to score as they were effectively marching down the field. However, on a fullback dive, Tippett fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Cardinals. This was the only turnover for the Black Knights, but it still hurt them drastically.

Had Army held onto the ball they could have tallied up points for that drive and gone into the half with momentum, as well as a tied score. Yet, losing the ball wasted another scoring opportunity, something Army just can't afford in close contests. The Black Knights have to take advantage of every possession, and that's something they didn't do yesterday.

Coach Rich Ellerson commented after the game, "We [Army Offense] needed to stay on the field. We needed to not have 3 and outs…" Many times the offense failed at this as the Cardinal's defense stopped them on 1st and 2nd down forcing hard 3rd down conversions, which the offense converted just 5 of 15.

A Pass or Fail Test

The Army offense did not attempt a single pass in the first half of the game. Needless to say, this comes as no surprise for the nation's leading rushing offense and is a common theme for the Black Knights: don't pass the ball until the end of the game when points are needed, and then realize it can work.

Quarterback Trent Steelman is not your picture perfect drop back passer. The majority of his pass attempts find the senior signal caller with happy feet and hence scrambling before he puts the ball in the air ... very often his passes are more like a R.A. Dickey knuckleball versus a Peyton Manning spiral pass.

But even with that, Steelman's average "yards per attempt" yesterday was over 7 yards with a completion percent of 60%. For the 2012 season he also averages 7 yards per attempt. Thus, passing the ball can be and should be systematic part of the Army offense and not utilized "must pass" circumstances. This is not to say that Army should switch to a West Coast style offense, but utilizing receivers, Chevaughn Lawrence and Patrick Laird, would have opponents defensive coordinators reconsider the eight in the box that appears to be the norm against Army's offense.

It will be interesting to see how the Army offense responds next week when they host rival Air Force at Michie Stadium.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!