Report Card: Army vs. Ball State

The Army Black Knights were dominated by the Ball State Cardinals in a 48-21 loss at Scheumann Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jahwan Edwards rushed for three scores to as the Cardinals improved to 3-1. The blowout loss dropped the Black Knights record to 1-3.



Ball State

As a team Army completed no passes in four attempts with a interception and allowed a sack. Steelman first pass attempt was a poorly thrown pass to Raymond Maples who was doubled covered. It should have been intercepted and probably would have been if the Cardinals' star safety Sean Baker wasn't playing with a cast on his hand. Steelman's second pass was a disaster. He was intercepted setting up an easy Ball State touchdown and making the score 28-0 and ending any hopes of Army getting back into the game .Trent rolled out and under pressure threw a pass that had no chance right into coverage. Cast or no cast it was an easy pick for the Cardinals Sean Baker. Steelman had no business even attempting that pass. He should have thrown it away or taken the sack. Steelman did make a nice throw to Anthony Stephens in the fourth quarter. Stephens dove but couldn't hold the ball. Jared McFarlin, after catching at least one pass in every previous game this year, was a complete non-factor as he was shut out. Davyd Brooks saw very little playing time from scrimmage and has clearly dropped out of favor. The offensive line allowed a sack and struggled the few times they were asked to pass protect.
The Black Knights rushed for 402 yards, averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns. While some might claim that Army's success was in second half after being shut out the first half, the truth is except for the opening drive Army ran the ball effectively. Army had a Malcolm Brown (5 carries, 20 yards) touchdown taken off the board as the result of a bogus chop block penalty that never occurred. Will Wilson was not engaged with the defensive tackle at the same time as the guard Matt Villanti. With Alex Carlton missing the following chip shot field goal, Army had no points for its efforts. Down 14-0 on the next series, Trent Steelman broke an 18-yard run to put the ball in Ball State territory. It was called back by an even worse chop block penalty by the line judge on a simple cut block. That made it 2nd-and 21 and essentially ended the drive. It's amazing that college referees still don't even know the chop block rules.

The last series of the first half was totally on Steelman (11 carries, 81yards) when he made a blind pitch to no one and was lucky it was covered by Malcolm Brown. Despite rushing for 19 yards the next two plays combined Army was forced to punt after Steelman's blunder and Ball State used the short field to add a field goal before the end of the half.

B-back Jared Hassin had his best performance of the season when he flashed last year's form by rushing 17 times for 111 yards. Sophomore A-back Raymond Maples built on his rushing success of last week by rushing 16 times for a career high 125 yards, an average of 7.8 yards a carry, and he scored two touchdowns. Maples now looks like the player I saw dominate at USMAPS in 2009 when I predicted he could be the best Army back in a long time. (#3 playing fullback LINK)

With Trenton Turrentine out with a knee injury, direct admit Terry Baggett made his first appearance and impressed with his speed and power. Baggett rushed four times for 36 yards and scored a touchdown.

Right guard Joe Bailey suffer a serious knee injury early in the game. Matt Villanti who had battled him for the job all spring and summer played well in his place. Right tackle Robert Kava continues to play well since entering the lineup.
Ball State's Pete Lembo showed why he's been a prolific passing guru and such a successful head coach. He broke down Army's defensive scheme and used max protection to shut down the Black Knights pass rush pressure. Army had no sacks and generated only one quarterback hurry (A.J. Mackey). This allowed Ball State's quarterback Keith Wenning plenty of time to pick apart Army's secondary. How bad was the coverage? Army used three different field cornerbacks who all struggled mightily. Plebe Lamar Johnson Harris (4 tackles) was overmatched and removed with Army down 14-0. Waverly Washington (1 tackle) replaced him and he was even worse. Washington used poor technique near the goal line when he was caught looking at the quarterback and beaten badly on a fade in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Nothing demonstrated the secondary's futility than a sequence after Steelman's pick. Ball State's tight end was wide open in the end zone and dropped a sure touchdown pass. The next play Willie Snead beat the third field cornerback Brian Cobbs (3 tackles) on a post route for an apparent touchdown. Safety Hayden Pierce was late providing help. It was called back on a penalty. Ball State ran the exact same play on third-and goal from the 21-yard line and once again Snead beat Cobb and Pierce was late helping over the top as Ball State scored a touchdown. Josh Jackson made ten tackles but also struggled in coverage. Losing Justin Trimble at Mike linebacker early in the game hurt since he can cover and gets excellent depth on his pass drops. Safeties Hayden Pierce (4 tackles) and Tyler Dickson (5 tackles) who had played well the last two weeks had poor games.

Wenning completed a 51-yard touchdown pass to his tight end running the seam in the third quarter where no one in the Army secondary covered him.
The Black Knights allowed 162 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Army had trouble with Ball State's zone option running attack and was dominated at the line of scrimmage. Rover Steve Erzinger led the team with 17 tackles but had a costly horse collar penalty that helped set up a touchdown. A.J. Mackey made six tackles including 1 1/2 for loses but the truth is Army was pushed around physically up front. At both defensive end positions the Watts brothers were unable to get off blocks and had very quiet games.
The field goal unit had another disaster with a low snap and Alex Carlton shanked another field goal attempt, this one from 32 yards. Punter Chris Boldt averaged 39.3 yards on three punts, including a 44-yard punt, while placing one inside the 20. He made one dangerous line drive punt that was returned 12 yards and nearly was broke for a big play except for a nice tackle by Tyler Dickson. Eric Osteen had three touchbacks on his kickoffs but had one fly out of bounds when the staff asked him to directional kick. They should just have Osteen kick it deep. He's done an excellent job this year driving the ball. Kick returner Scotty Williams averaged 22 yards on his five kickoff returns giving Army solid field position. Punt returner Josh Jackson had just one punt return for a yard.
Army had no answers defensively to respond to Ball State's max protection offensive game plan. It neutralized Army's double eagle flex philosophy of creating pressure and negative plays. It exposed Army secondary. On offense Ian Shields had a solid day calling plays but needs to get Steelman to become more efficient passing the ball. He's been horrible this year. The offense moved the ball most of the game but the bad calls by the line judge took one touchdown off the board and killed another drive. It was such a blatant bad call that I would have liked to see Ellerson give the line judge an earful and it might have stopped the second chop block call that was even worse than the original.

I did like the time out to attempt to settle the team down after Steelman's interception. It didn't work but I like the concept. Ellerson has to take responsibility for the lack of focus and the defensive meltdown. Tony Coaxum needs to coach up these cornerbacks. The previous two years Army's defensive backs lacked speed in the secondary and were beaten at times but usually they were sound. This inexperienced group is making far too many mistakes in basic technique leaving receivers wide open.

It's obvious that if Army can't generate a pass rush against a decent quarterback they have no chance to stop anyone. The defense was really exposed after two solid weeks. The offense continues to move the ball. Steelman's decision making hasn't been as solid as last season and has hurt the team at times even with his own running being improved. This is a young and very inexperienced team that we knew would have some ugly moments. They have to rebound quickly next week as a team if they have any hopes of salvaging the season.

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