Quick Thoughts: Army Comes Up Short Against Georgia State
The Black Knights dropped a game to Georgia State last night, and I guess the good news is that the team didn’t come out flat or struggle to move the ball for the most part. They didn’t get blown out. That was a real possibility considering the opponent. As Coach Jeff Monken said on the radio heading into halftime, “At least we’re still in the game.”
Final score. pic.twitter.com/mhyxzEHkAQ
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) October 20, 2019
So, okay. They were competitive. That doesn’t change the fact that Army has somehow lost the habit of closing out games and actually winning. This particular game was always going to be one in which the defense got at most a few key stops. They got those stops. The Black Knights twice had the ball in their hands with a chance to win it late. They couldn’t do it, though, or really even get close. Moreover, they seem to have lost the knack of playing their best ball when it matters most. This is arguably the most alarming aspect of the team’s current three-game slide.
If you’d told me this past summer that the most interesting aspect of the 2019 football season was going to be the play of QB Daniel Jones for the New York Giants, I’d never have believed you. Army was ranked in the Top 25 to start the year! But here we are.
The offense is still the problem. Yes, Army moved the ball better in this game, but they still only rushed for 278 yards on 61 carries (4.6 yards/carry) against a team that’s been giving up almost 200 yards rushing to pretty much every team on their schedule. Army is supposed to be a running team, but they are not running the ball particularly well overall. They did okay with the Fullback Dive while they had G Peyton Reeder in the game, but Reeder went out at some point in the first half, and despite the strong drive to open the third quarter, the offense never really recovered.
In fact, the biggest issue with this team appears to be injuries. G Jaxon Deaton missed the game, and as noted, Reeder went out with an injury. Coming in, the O-Line was so banged up that actually had to play TE Zach Saum at tackle. Army has literally run out of linemen. Meanwhile, QB Kelvin Hopkins looks like a shadow of himself. He wound up with 70 yards on 20 carries (3.5 yards/carry), but it’s notable that they came almost entirely in the first half. He took a heavy hit at some point in the third quarter, and I don’t think we saw him carry again all game save for a few short Quarterback Sneaks. Certainly, Army is running far fewer of the kinds of Quarterback Power plays off-tackle that have been a mainstay over the past three seasons. I get the sense that the coaching staff doesn’t want to risk injuring their best player, especially behind a patchwork line. With that, the whole offensive scheme has come apart.
You’d expect a Quarterback Follow on that last 4th-and-4. Instead they try to throw for it? No way that happens if K-Hop is 100%.
Imagine trying that with Ahmad Bradshaw.
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) October 20, 2019
The other issue with this offense is that they can’t run outside — at all. The receivers aren’t sustaining blocks, and even more than that, there’s defensive penetration outside the tackle box every time. The slotbacks have nowhere to run. They’re getting hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on every play. That leaves the offense to either pound the Midline or die, and as I mentioned last week, they can’t win with just one or two plays. The lack of an outside running game has made the so-called triple-option far too predictable. With that, the team again went just 6/15 on third down, though they converted 6/8 on fourth down. Unfortunately, they needed exactly one more conversion, and that’s the one they couldn’t get.
They didn’t have a running play that could reliably pick up 4 yards. This is why they are losing.
Army did a decent job on defense, especially in the first half. They bottled up Georgia State’s running game for the most part and kept QB Dan Ellington from lighting them up on Quarterback Keepers. Not everyone has managed that. However, Ellington went 20/28 passing (71.4%) for 232 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Army couldn’t get pressure without breaking contain, and as he showed a few times, breaking containment on Dan Ellington is a death sentence.
The Black Knights also won time-of-possession dramatically, and this against a team that is itself one of the best time-of-possession teams in all of college football. That was a significant goal coming into the game, so maybe finding success there lets this team start finding some momentum as well.
However, if there something to build on here, it’s going to require the Black Knights to get back their best players. Despite the advertised depth along the O-Line during the preseason, reality is that this team needs Peyton Reeder and Jaxon Deaton. If they get those guys back and figure out how to get the ball to their playmakers on the outside in space, then maybe this team will have something. However, they’re rapidly running out of time to figure it out.
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) October 19, 2019
Halftime Black Knights 14, Georgia State 14#ArmyFootball 167 rushing yards
Connor Slomka 7-56
Kelvin Hopkins 12-48
Sandon McCoy 8-37-2
Dan Ellington 12-for-17, 150 yards, 2 TD
57 rushing yards
— Black Knight Nation (@BKKnightNation) October 20, 2019
My last note is on ESPN.
Every corporation in America claims to support the nation’s soldiers and veterans. They don’t have to. They could say, “Hey, we’re against war, and we think the Army is a waste of national resources.” They don’t do that, though. They fall all over themselves to “support the troops,” whatever that means.
Mostly it’s just words. Few corporations have a legitimate way to actually support real soldiers or veterans. It’s outside the scope of their mission, and that’s okay. However, ESPN had the opportunity to put this week’s Army game on a network where real soldiers and veterans could watch without having to pay for an additional online subscription. They chose not to do that. They chose to put Rice at UTSA on their base channel ESPN3, so that they could hit West Point graduates for an additional up-charge via ESPN+.
— Justin Fedich (@jfedichTHR) October 19, 2019
West Pointers serve in the Army. Granted, they’re officers, so they can mostly afford the up-charge, but still. ESPN had the opportunity to do something that would have actually supported real soldiers and veterans, and instead, they chose to make the experience as difficult and as expensive as they possibly could.
I didn’t love it, and neither should you. I understand it, but man, that’s petty.
Army has San Jose State at Michie Stadium this week. The Spartans have been better this season, but they’re still struggling to run the ball and stop the run. The Black Knights should have a real chance to win, but the Spartans need this game desperately if they want any hope at all of making it to the postseason. The same could be said of the Black Knights.