2013 Army Football Stat Tracker: Time Of Poss

Under Jeff Monken in 2014, the Army Black Knights will not try to reinvent the wheel. They'll still play option football, so time of possession will still be relevant and central to them. What can this team glean from its time-of-possession track record in 2013?


It is quite true that for triple-option teams, time of possession matters. As any clear-eyed football analyst or pundit knows by now, time of possession is often an overrated statistic, as both a measurement and indicator of success in the sport. Teams with no-huddle offenses or spread passing attacks don't look at time of possession in a conventional way. The place of this statistic in football is substantially different from what (and where) it used to be.

For the service academies, however, time of possession remains king... not necessarily because the triple-option is a run-first attack (though that's certainly a huge part of the equation), but because undersized teams need to keep their defenses off the field against opposing offenses that will sometimes possess considerable physical advantages. This point is obvious enough. However, the other central nuance connecting time of possession and triple-option football is that the chances of busting a long touchdown run increase to the extent that the triple-option can move the sticks. In other words, this is not just about keeping your own defense OFF the field; it's about keeping the opposing defense ON the field.

It's an idea that can be grasped without too much difficulty: The more a defense has to deal with the multiple assignments and reads that are part of the triple option, the more exasperated it becomes. Each first down has the potential to mentally erode the opposing defense's level of focus. One lapse, one frustrated and scattered reaction on the part of one defender in a key position of containment, can spring the big play. There is a psychological component to time of possession for triple-option teams. College football fans get to see this most often with Georgia Tech. It's how the Yellow Jackets made the Orange Bowl and won the ACC title in the 2009 season.

If a triple-option team wins the time of possession battle in a game, it is giving itself a better chance to win. There are no guarantees on this front, by all means. Moreover, if Army plays a high-powered opponent, that opponent might score so quickly that Army could win the time of possession competition and yet still get blown out on the scoreboard. That point needs to be kept in mind here.

Yet, the numbers from 2013 remain disappointing: Army won time of possession in 10 of the 11 FBS games it played – 10 of 11! However, the Black Knights won just two of those 10 games, posting a 2-8 record. Even when factoring an opponent's quick offensive strikes into the discussion, a 2-8 record in "TOP wins" is subpar.

For one thing, will Army even be able to win time of possession 10 more times in 2014? That's one source of worry for Monken and his staff. Then, if Army manages to match that number, can the Black Knights at least get closer to .500 (say, 4-6) in those games? This is definitely something to monitor in the coming autumn.

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