2013 Army Football Stat Tracker: Total Yards
MARKING YARDS: THE MEANINGFUL ONES AND THE EMPTY ONES
How important is it for a team to win the battle for more total yards in a game? This is a statistic which can so easily be an "empty calorie" measurement of genuine prowess and strength. Yet, for Army, accumulating more yards was in fact an indicator in 2013, a primary reason this team won or lost.
In our attempt to track Army's results last season, here's how total yards broke down: In 11 FBS games, Army gained more yards than its opponent on three occasions, while gaining fewer yards in eight contests. In the three games in which Army racked up more yards, it went 2-1. In the eight games in which it was outgained, Army went 0-8.
What does this mean? There are two important realizations to make: First, Army was outgained so regularly because it wasn't able to throw the ball with any appreciable degree of consistency.
We're not going to do a separate section on passing yards because Army so routinely fell behind in that particular category. West Point outpassed only one FBS opponent in 2013, and that was Navy. The Midshipmen didn't throw much in that game, and whatever the Black Knights accomplished through the air in Philadelphia contained very little real-world value. Army doesn't need more passing yards for the sake of gaining more passing yards. The Black Knights need to throw the ball to establish offensive balance and a measure of unpredictability. They need to throw the ball when the outcome of a game hangs in the balance, too, not when they're getting smoked well into the second half.
This isn't always true, but it's often true: Passing yards skew the "total yardage" equation. A team that falls behind by 21 points (either by committing a ton of turnovers, allowing gobs of points, or both) has to pass the ball a lot. Yards can rapidly add up, but with no bearing on win-loss outcomes. Army, as one can see, was subjected to this dynamic only once. The lack of a passing game from week to week put the Black Knights in a different position. This leads us to the second basic realization created by the team's winning record in games when it gained more yards.
Army, at this point in its existence as a program, derives more benefit from outgaining opponents than many other FBS schools. The point outlined above – namely, that Army won't typically rack up a lot of cheap and meaningless passing yards in garbage-time situations – means that the Black Knights' run-first approach will usually translate into a higher percentage of valuable yards. Think of it this way: 500 yards for Army will probably be more significant as a gateway to victory (or at least competitiveness) than 500 yards for Indiana, North Carolina, or Oregon State.
Being able to run the ball consistently will continue to give Army the ability to gain a greater percentage of what can loosely be called "meaningful yards," but if the Black Knights can also find more of a passing attack when a game's outcome remains up for grabs, Army can gain even more leverage on a succession of autumnal Saturdays.
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