Army Football 2013 In Review: Field Position

Field position might not matter much to a quick-strike offense such as Baylor's or Ohio State's, but it matters a lot to a team such as Army, one that needs every last ounce of leverage in order to win games on Saturdays. Set aside the category of scoring offense for a moment. A strict focus on drive start locations reveals one area in which this team can improve in 2014.


EIGHT WAS NOT NEARLY ENOUGH

The Army football team doesn't mind the long 80-yard drive that takes seven minutes off the clock and puts seven points on the board. That's undeniably a core source of any successes the Black Knights can achieve during any season. Army will need many of those kinds of drives. Yet, once the competition unfolds on Saturday and a drive stalls near midfield, the fight for real estate takes on more layers and hues. A punt will pin the opponent's offense inside its own 10. A three-and-out will lead to a punt that gives the opponent the ball near midfield. The twists and turns of game play move in so many different directions, and in one game, a team just might not have the chance to operate on offense with a short field. That's part of the unpredictability of sports.

However, when games accumulate and a full FBS season runs its course, what can a team point to in terms of field-position successes?

The results in 2013 weren't pretty for Army – not as far as drive starts in plus-territory were concerned.

Not counting FCS games, and not counting any drives in plus-territory that started near the end of a game with a lead (in other words, in a running-out-the-clock situation), Army began only eight possessions in plus-territory in 2013. That's a very small number. The Black Knights began six possessions from the 50 to the opponent's 36, and two possessions from the opponent's 35 to the 21. The Black Knights started no possessions in the opponent's red zone.

Stop to consider how different the 2013 season could have been if Army had collected two more drive starts in each of those three layers of the field (the 50 to the 36, the 35 to the 21, and the red zone). A few more plus-territory possessions in relatively close games could have created shifts of seven, 10, or maybe 14 points, which – in perhaps two games – could have turned losses into wins. This is something to keep an eye on next year. Eight plus-territory possessions in FBS games removed from a kneel-down/victory-formation context? That's not enough for West Point football in the coming season.

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