Army 2013 In Review: Where It Went Wrong
SAME RESULTS, DIFFERENT PATHWAYS
The surface score in any athletic competition will frequently tell a fat lie in terms of gauging the competitiveness of the event. The fact that Army's 2013 team suffered double-digit losses in such contrasting ways is precisely what underscored the "if not one problem, then something else" nature of the past season. Jeff Monken will try to address this characteristic of West Point football as much as anything else when the 2014 season begins.
Sports are funny, and they're definitely unconcerned with linear logic in many cases. Let's briefly look at two of Army's games last year, the games in which a 3-4 season that stood on the precipice of bowl eligibility abruptly went south.
In consecutive weeks, Army:
Won time of possession by at least 4:56.
Gained at least five more first downs than its opponent.
Lost by at least 14 points.
Doing so in one week on one Saturday gone wrong is just part of sports and their oddities. Doing so in consecutive weeks? That's hard to pull off. How did this happen?
What's even more bizarre about these two games? In one, Army committed four turnovers, in another, none. In one game, Army fell behind 26-0 in the first half. In the other, Army led, 21-14, in the final minute of the first half.
Do you know these games from memory? Against Temple, Army committed four turnovers and fell behind 26-0. The Black Knights accumulated five more first downs and 4:56 more in possession, yet lost, 33-14. Against Air Force, Army didn't commit a single turnover, grabbed a 21-14 lead just before halftime, led by 15:04 in time of possession… and fell, 42-28. In the Temple game, Army fell flat in the first half and accumulated empty-calorie stats in the second half. In the Air Force loss, Army bolted out of the gate but then lost steam in the second half. So many of the problems that existed in one game did not carry over to the other, but the problems in each game were significant enough to bring about a loss. The biggest common thread of each loss was a susceptibility to the big play from the other team. Army gave up two scoring plays of at least 37 yards against Temple and at least 73 yards against Air Force.
These combinations of realities – and breakdowns – are what a new coaching staff is brought in to fix. When Jeff Monken assesses the 2013 season and looks at ways to improve the Army football product, he's going to take a long, hard look at the Temple and Air Force games.
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