Three Keys: Yale

The Army football team’s toughest opponent this weekend will be the Black Knights’ toughest opponent last weekend: Army. With all due respect to Wake Forest, Army’s sloppiness in the kicking game, plus untimely penalties and fumbles, took a 21-14 fourth-quarter lead and turned it into a gut punch of a loss. Army has to be able to clean up the way it plays against Yale.


THREE KEYS TO BEATING YALE

1 – Increased situational awareness.
These three keys are not so much keys to beating Yale, because that should be achieved barring a truly remarkable series of events. These are keys for the Black Knights to focus on and absorb as they move forward with their season. At the top of the list has to be the ability to be more airtight, not less, in increasingly important situations. Army’s two fumbles against Wake Forest occurred in the red zone and when trailing late in the fourth quarter. There’s never a good time to fumble, but Army’s level of ball security decreased when game pressure escalated. Good teams have to be just the opposite in terms of their responses to in-game developments. Army started well and then declined. The Black Knights have to at least sustain a good start; ideally, they’ll learn in time to go one step better and build on it.

2 – Penalty reduction is a non-negotiable demand. The memory of the penalty-plagued loss to Navy, at the end of Rich Ellerson’s tenure, helped accelerate the felt need in West Point for a fresh start and a change in leadership. Army didn’t drown in penalty yards (only 57) against Wake, but seven penalties? That’s always going to be too much for Army, given the way it plays. Even one five-yard penalty puts the offense behind the sticks, which leads to the next key, one that fundamentally hasn’t changed in 2014:

3 – Stretch the field. An important Army drive near midfield, early in the fourth quarter with a 21-17 lead, died because a third and 12 featured a nine-yard completion for the Knights. Remember, Army doesn’t need to complete large numbers of passes or change its run-first identity. The Black Knights simply need to be able to arrive at a point where they can hit a pass play of at least 15, ideally 25 or more, yards. When Army passes, it needs to be able to make magic happen. When a difficult down-and-distance situation arrives in the fourth quarter of a tight game, Army needs to show that it can spread out a defense and find a downfield area in which to throw – and complete – a high-leverage pass. When the Black Knights achieve this, watch how it changes the way the offense plays… not in terms of its approach, but its capabilities.

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