Well that sucked.
In the weeks leading up to last night’s game, the AFF Crew agreed that Army Head Coach Jeff Monken looked happier and more relaxed than we’d seen him in a good, long time. We all trust Coach Monken and believe in him, so we took this as a sure sign that the offensive rebuild was well ahead of schedule. Sure, it’s tough putting in a new offense, particularly with players you’ve recruited for an entirely different scheme. But maybe, against all odds, these guys had managed to pull it off?
Alas, we seem to have badly misread the situation. We definitely were not expecting to watch Army’s offense get repeatedly stonewalled in the Red Zone or to watch them punt on 4th and 1 from plus territory. We thought maybe this game would be a defensive struggle, but we didn’t expect the defense to hang tight for most of the contest, only to get gashed by long runs right when it seemed that they might take control. We might even have expected new Army quarterback Bryson Daily to throw an interception, but I don’t think anyone thought Army would just put the ball on the ground four times and lose it three of those times.
Ain’t no one winning a football game when they go just 6/15 on 3rd down and commit 5 turnovers, even when they score on defense. Likewise, you don’t get to allow 207 yards rushing on an ungodly 6.5 yards/carry on defense in 90+ degree heat and hang tough through four full quarters.
The Hell of it is that ULM wasn’t particularly good in this game. Maybe their rushing defense was better than advertised, but QB Jiya Wright went just 10/21 passing for all of 70 yards and 2 interceptions, one of which went for a touchdown. QB Hunter Herring replaced him and went just 4/9 through the air for all of 22 yards and a touchdown.
If you’re Army, you’ve got to be able to make that work.
The ULM OL is cooking right now pic.twitter.com/BlfQnfD9sj— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 3, 2023
Unfortunately, Army matched ULM’s mistakes and then some. Daily went just 5/11 passing with 2 awful picks. He finished with 23 carries for 67 yards (2.9 yards/carry). The team overall ran for just 176 yards on 50 carries (3.5 yards/carry), but as noted, they fumbled three times in ludicrous situations, and if we strip out WR Ay’Jaun Marshall’s 2 carries for 43 yards to the outside (21.5 yards/carry), we’re left 48 carries for just 2.8 yards/carry. Which is to say that outside of those two runs, Army couldn’t move the ball with any consistency whatsoever. This team punted 4 times in just 12 drives and committed 5 turnovers. Fumble, missed field goal, interception, punt, field goal, punt, punt, field goal, punt, fumble, interception, fumble.
No one can win like that!
Can We Put This In Perspective?
No one should overreact to one game, but man, this looked like a return to the bad old days of Army Football. For all his faults, former OC Brent Davis made it work through the second half of last season. It wasn’t always pretty, but he found some legitimately creative ways to deal with the new blocking restrictions, and Army still somehow played with their trademark grinding intensity that — mostly — limited mistakes and wore away at defenses over time. By comparison, new OC Drew Thatcher is 0-1, and it’s a bad 0-1. His offense managed to maintain time-of-possession for almost 36 minutes, but that’s about all they can say.
Let’s be clear: if you get paid millions of dollars to coach a kid’s game on TV, folks are absolutely going to keep score.
Friends, these guys have a LOT of work to do.
Ay'Jaun Marshall with a 35-yard sprint to start our drive! pic.twitter.com/NB7icVkCzo— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) September 3, 2023
As fans, we know that we shouldn’t necessarily overreact to one setback, but folks do have a right to be upset. We get asked to put our time, money, and emotional investment into this team. We can’t control the outcome. We’re just watching along at home, hanging on every turn.
Sure, we know that the team is more upset. We understand that they care more than we do, that they have to live with this in the film room throughout the next week. But then again, the team gets to turn the page and focus on a new opponent. Fans right now are stewing in their memories of the bad old days, praying that they’ve not signed up for a return trip.
Army has FCS Delaware State coming to town this Saturday. For better or worse, the Hornets lost to a Division II team yesterday. ULM might not have been good, but the Black Knights’ next opponent is actively bad, though they seem to have a decent enough rushing defense.
Can Army get right in a week? Can they turn this thing around before it gets out of hand? They have to travel to San Antonio soon enough, to play against a Roadrunner team that gave up just 101 yards rushing yesterday on 2.7 yards/carry to an electric Houston offense.
The Black Knights let one get away this week, and it was a game that they badly needed. Things will get exponentially harder soon.
So. Are we gonna play some football or what?