Well friends, isn’t it crazy how the season turns. Despite all their trials and tribulations early, your Army Black Knights got a monster win over a VERY talented team from Coastal Carolina yesterday, and now, suddenly, everything looks different. Army has won three straight, beating four legitimate conference championship contenders from among the best the Group of 5 and FCS ranks have to offer. With that, they turned their season from a series of missed opportunities into an honest-to-God season of opportunities.
Good God. Yesterday was honestly so beautiful from start to finish.
Transitioning away from their tried-and-true cut-blocked flexbone triple-option attack was never going to be easy for the Black Knights. We saw that repeatedly early in the year. But it wasn’t the new offense that caused their struggles. It was all the damned turnovers. Once they got those straightened out, Army started winning. Then they brought the flexbone back out yesterday, using the new offense’s zone blocking scheme run behind an O-Line that is now fully 20 lbs. heavier per man than they were in past seasons, and they had so much success with it that they just sort of kept doing what was working.
It feels like Army’s final answer might lie in some system that combines the best of what was old and what’s new. No one wants to lose the passing improvements we’ve seen from OC Drew Thatcher’s approach, nor the success his slow-mesh read-option attack had against Air Force earlier in the year. At the same time, though, Army averaged over 7.1 yards/carry through the first three quarters of yesterday’s game against a very good rushing defense from Coastal Carolina. Why? Because those under-center snaps hit the line of scrimmage so much faster than the shotgun snaps do. Either way, runners have carried for 5-7 yards this season, but when they start at the line of scrimmage, most of those yards represent real forward progress.
It must be said, too, that Thatcher didn’t call this game the same way that the previous regime would have. We saw plenty of Fullback Dives and lots of outside running, mostly with versions of the Speed Option, though we saw a handful of Rocket Toss-type plays, too. However, Thatcher did not run remotely as much Midline Option/Inside Veer as we’ve seen in past seasons. In fact, this was the first time the AFF Staff can remember in recent memory in which the slotbacks out-rushed the quarterback, which is incredible considering that those same slots had a long run of just 18 yards yesterday, granted for a touchdown. But QB Bryson Daily took just 22 carries for 94 yards. That’s plenty, sure, but it’s still only 30% of the total rushing workload, both by carry and by total yardage. He’s been pulling a lot more than that over the past few weeks. By comparison, SBs Ay’Jaun Marshall, Tyrell Robinson, and Miles Stewart took 15 collective carries for 101 yards.
That’s excellent ball distribution.
They also pulled linemen and used traps at the line, and they never got overly conservative behind a big lead. So, bottom line, this was still very much still a new-school rushing attack. It was just a new school attack at the line of scrimmage.
Coach Monken said after the game that they put the flexbone in this week as a change of pace, and that they didn’t plan to use it all day. Given the way this game went, however, I suspect the conversation around how to run this offense has only just started. If Coach Thatcher doesn’t spend half the offseason in the lab figuring out how to fully mesh these two approaches, we will be very surprised.
Indeed, Coach Thatcher said before the season that more guys were gonna touch the ball this year. Well, seven guys touched it yesterday.
All three phases ✅ pic.twitter.com/eaofhcopAk— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) November 19, 2023
Army got a victory in all three phases yesterday. 21 points from the offense, 7 from a blocked punt on special teams, plus turnovers, punts, and stuffed runs from the defense. A truly excellent Coastal Carolina rushing attack managed just 105 yards rushing yesterday, went 4/10 on third down, and failed their only fourth down conversion attempt. Outside one long run from RB Jared Brown, Coastal’s rushing attack was a virtual non-factor. Similarly, QB Jarrett Guest went 26/36 through the air for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns, but Army S Quindrelin Hammonds forced a pick in the end zone that ultimately cost Coastal the game.
That is complimentary football. This is how Army Football is supposed to work.
Oh by the way, Army’s defense was only on the field for 51 plays yesterday.
We’ve now got three weeks until Army-Navy. Rivalry Weekend comes first, immediately after Thanksgiving, and especially in the American Conference, there are a lot of high-leverage match-ups on the horizon. Meanwhile, Coastal plays James Madison next week, and if they win, they can still get to the Sun Belt Championship Game against Troy thanks to their earlier victory at App. State. App. State beat Coastal yesterday, so if Coastal struggles next week, the Mountaineers will meet Troy for the title.
All of that is awesome.
Stick with us, friends. There’s plenty to watch between now and the second Saturday in December.
Go Army! Beat Navy!!!
Cover image via @ArmyWP_Football.