The wait is over, friends. It’s finally here. At long last, Army plays football tomorrow!
It’s been a long, long offseason, and as a result, I’ve had WAY too much time to think about this one individual game. Apologies up front if this post gets a little too involved.
I spent a long time looking at the team statistics for this game, but then I also went back and re-watched last year’s rivalry match-up, Georgia Southern at Georgia State. That felt like a good benchmark for a couple of reasons. First, because Southern runs a version of the triple-option, so that provided a chance to see how State might handle an option-based rushing attack. And also because we saw Southern at Michie Stadium the week before they traveled to take on the Panthers. That makes Georgia Southern’s performance in this game — granted, missing a handful of critical starters who played against Army — an excellent point of reference.
Bottom line, Southern probably should have won that game, but they didn’t, mostly because they gave up too many big plays over the top.
Keys to Victory
I’ve got three.
Run the Damn Ball
Obvious, right? But there’s a little more here than you might expect.
Georgia State did not have a great defense last year, but they were much, much better against the run than they were against the pass. State had the 79th-ranked scoring defense in 2020, allowing 31.7 points/game but just 136 yards/game rushing. They got a decent number of sacks and tackles-for-loss, but they also somehow gave up 273.7 yards/game through the air, making them one of the very worst pass defenses in the entire country. They finished 6-4 overall, 4-4 in the Sun Belt, but they should have been even better given that they averaged 424 yards/game on offense and scored an average of 33.3 points.
But those stats are likely somewhat skewed by the teams the Panthers played. Sure, they gave up just 136 yards/game rushing, but they did it on a whopping 3.9 yards/carry. That’s not ideal.
Fast forward to 2021, and we find a team that runs a 3-4 defense with a talented D-Line and a bunch of players returning in the secondary. However, they’re a little undersized along the D-Line — NT Dontae Wilson is just 275 lbs, for example, despite having played well against Army two years ago — and they have an almost entirely new linebacking corps.
So. If Army can move Wilson at the point-of-attack and consistently get their fullbacks into the second level with the Fullback Dive, we ought to see the Black Knights have a big day on offense.
That’s our first Key to Victory. Run the damn ball — right up the middle.
The Army Black Knights football team will be wearing the unit patch of the 3rd Infantry Division when they take on Georgia State on Sat, Sept 4 at noon. Tune in on ESPNU to watch the game live! U.S. Army photo by SFC Brooks @3rd_Infantry @GoArmyWestPoint #ArmyFootball #WestPoint pic.twitter.com/BvhZ7cpuBp— U.S. Military Academy at West Point (@WestPoint_USMA) September 2, 2021
Don’t Get Beat Deep
Georgia State runs a read-option offense out of a spread pistol set. Conceptually, it’s not that much different than Army’s offense, but they run it out of the shotgun with a running back on the quarterback’s hip. QB Quad Brown can hand off for a Dive, Keep and run, or Keep and throw. Mostly, those throws are quick outs to the sideline — think of this like an overhand pitch play that goes maybe five yards down the field.
The opportunity here exists because Brown is a 58.6% completion percentage passer. He doesn’t run particularly often, nor is he accurate enough to consistently move the chains by hitting a bunch of quick-outs. But Brown and the Panthers have a whole crew of talented wide receivers. In their game against Georgia Southern, they survived by hitting just enough deep balls to keep that game close through the first three quarters.
Bottom line, Army cannot afford to get beat deep. State’s offense is not going to find a rhythm with dinks and dunks down the field. They’re gonna try to hit home runs that put the Black Knights back on their heels.
Take Advantage of Mistakes
Brown threw 17 touchdowns last year against 10 interceptions and 12 sacks. As a team, the Panthers were +1 on turnover margin with 12 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries against 10 fumbles lost plus Brown’s 10 picks. Moreover, State is just 4-16 straight-up in their last 20 games played in September.
This is the first game of the season, and we’re liable to see some mistakes. Army needs to avoid making those mistakes while taking advantage of mistakes made by Georgia State.
This isn’t complicated. It is, however, the critical Key to Victory.
This is where it’s worth mentioning that Army ought to have a massive fan presence in the stands. The Black Knights are gonna need that 12th Man. Be loud and help frustrate the Panthers in their home stadium.
Remember: No one goes to an Army Football game just to watch. Get loud and participate!
Go Army! Beat Georgia State!!!
* Cover image via USMA Flickr.