Quick Thoughts: Army Exorcises Its Demons, Murders UMass
Hallelujah! Army beat the Hell out of UMass, sending the fans home happy. That counted for a lot on this Saturday before Veteran’s Day. It’s been over a month since we saw the Army team win one, and yeah, I think we all saw that UMass wasn’t great. Still, this year’s Army team has struggled at times to put away struggling teams.
That is decidedly not what happened this time.
7️⃣ different players scored TDs.
— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) November 9, 2019
Your Army Black Knights kicked ass from start to finish. They looked like the Army team that we all know and love. This despite starting yearling QB Jabari Laws and missing a number of key starters, especially on defense, including team captain LB Cole Christiansen and standout S Jaylon McClinton.
Even without those guys, the Black Knights dominated on both sides of the ball. After five weeks of frustration and futility, this was a wonder to behold.
— Michael Strahan (@michaelstrahan) November 9, 2019
The New Kid Has the Controls
Jabari Laws was outstanding in his second straight start. With firstie captain QB Kelvin Hopkins seemingly still struggling with whatever has ailed him throughout the season, Laws has had no choice but to be outstanding. As both the fastest guy on the team and arguably the team’s most accurate passer, there’s never been any doubt about Laws’ talent. Still, I doubt Head Coach Jeff Monken and Offensive Coordinator Brent Davis were in quite this much of a hurry to hand the key to their offense to a yearling.
Fortunately, Laws seems to be growing into his expanding role. After going 9/11 passing for more than 200 yards last week against Air Force, he led the team this week in rushing yards, torching the UMass defense for a whopping 140 yards on just 8 carries! Of course, his 83 yard run in the third quarter was a thing of beauty, but for once, Army was able to get their speed quarterback out on the perimeter, where UMass repeatedly misplayed the pitch, setting up a plethora of early Speed Option plays to SBs Kell Walker and Artice Hobbs. Walker got the ball a bunch for once, finishing with 7 carries for 60 yards. And yeah, it took awhile, but the team’s commitment to running on the edges eventually opened up some space inside for the fullbacks despite UMass’s obvious plan to stack the middle. Once those fullbacks got going, though, Army’s offense started firing for effect. FB Sandon McCoy finished with 14 carries for 52 yards and 3 touchdowns while FBs Connor Slomka and Cade Barnard added touchdowns of their own as well.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 9, 2019
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 9, 2019
It helps a lot when your offensive line is getting push at the point of attack while preventing backside penetration. We’ve seen one or the other at times this year, but this was the first game in which Army’s O-Line played well enough across the board to allow for the team’s full arsenal to come to bear. We actually saw some counter plays this week as well as true triple-options, both of which are a good bit easier and safer to execute when the O-Line can prevent run blitzes from hitting the meshpoint after the snap.
Army was so dominant this week that we can’t help but hope that maybe the patchwork set of guys playing up front has finally started to gel a little. After all, every in-game snap they play helps them build momentum. This week saw a lot of offensive snaps. The guys on Army’s offensive line have been getting worn down and beaten up all season. But maybe this week’s performance gives them the collective confidence they’ve been missing since the 2018 season finished. Certainly, Army’s O-Line hasn’t looked this good as a unit since last season, not even when they played UTSA, a team that’s not much better against the run than UMass.
The Bad Boys Are Back!
Army’s defense played magnificently as well, regardless of who was in or out. The addition of Rush LB Donovan Lynch has helped the pass rush significantly, and that has made a huge difference overall. UMass QB Andrew Brito is usually about a 58% passer. On Saturday, he went just 6/16 passing for 75 yards, most of which came on a double-reverse fleaflicker gadget play that he threw for a touchdown. Outside of that single completion, Brito was a total non-factor. RB Bilal Ally had a similar kind of day. Ally has averaged almost 6 yards/carry this season. Against Army, he had 10 carries for 26 yards.
The Minutemen went just 2/12 on third down and 1/3 on fourth down. They gained a measly 126 yards of total offense. That’s barely more than a third of their typical output. Hell, they’d been averaging 130 yards/game just with their running game. This week, Army gave a whopping 26 yards on the ground.
UMass averages 22 points/game. Yesterday, they scored 7.
Friends, that’s what the Bad Boys are supposed to look like.
Hopkins is Still the Man
Army played a bunch of quarterbacks in this game, including Kelvin Hopkins. Hopkins came in for Laws after a hit in the second quarter and again once the score got out of hand late in the third. In all, he played about two full series, and really, it wasn’t until his second series that he started to actually look like himself out there. We all know what Hopkins can do when he’s healthy and in rhythm. But it’s been awhile. It felt good up in the stands to see him start running with authority again, and I’m sure it felt good down on the field, too. Once Hopkins got going, he ripped off runs of 8- and 9-yards, overpowering defenders and fighting his way into the end zone. He finished with 7 carries for 30 yards and the touchdown (4.3 yards/carry). The team didn’t have to ask him to do a whole lot this week, but if he can start working back to his former form, he can very obviously still be a weapon for his team. Moreover, I expect his teammates are going to need him again before the season finishes.
My last note is on QB Jemel Jones, Army’s plebe 4th-string quarterback. Jones and his classmates looked really good. My man is 5’10”, 199 lbs, from The Colony, Texas. He ran Army’s last offensive series, mostly with fellow plebe FBs Jakobi Buchanan and Anthony Adkins. All three guys are going to be phenomenal weapons for the future. Buchanan finished with a whopping 12 carries for 63 yards (5.3 yards/carry) while doing the brunt of the work in the four-minute offense. Adkins got just one carry, but he broke it for 8 yards. That dude has some wheels. Jones himself finished with 6 carries for 35 yards (5.8 yards/carry) and the game’s final touchdown. Most importantly, he had full command of the offense and kept the team running downhill towards finish strong.
2019 has not been the season we all hoped, but I think we all realize that this team is a lot better than their record. They still have a chance to finish on a high note and maybe even close out the year above .500. Even without that, the Black Knights look like they are well on their way to reloading for 2020. That’s maybe not what we might’ve hoped to highlight at this point in the season, but it isn’t exactly bad news, either.
This week, the Army takes on the Keydets of VMI. VMI is much better this year than they were in 2018, but our boys should still beat them like an out-of-tune drum.
Another ass-whuppin’ is exactly what Army fans need to see.
When they let an old artillery guy fire the touchdown cannon>>>>>>>> pic.twitter.com/aMQaBseh5S
— Cons (@CaptainCons) November 9, 2019