Three Keys: Ball State

The Army football team faces another conspicuously vulnerable foe this Saturday. Ball State was a very good team in 2012 and 2013, but in 2014, the Cardinals exist in a much weaker state. This team is starting over at quarterback and is therefore rebuilding its offense. Army’s defense has been shredded for much of this season, so Saturday’s game is a crucial time to gain confidence… and a win.


THREE KEYS TO BEATING BALL STATE

1 – Increased situational awareness.
Yes, this was the top key for last week’s game against Yale. It’s going to stay here for this week… because it ought to. A botched snap near Yale’s goal line forced Army to kick a field goal, one that was technically missed, but looked good to the naked eye. Even if the field goal had been called good, though, Yale still did score a touchdown in overtime to win, so that’s kind of a moot point. Army led for much of the game against Yale, twice by as many as 14 points (28-14 and 36-22). When a team leads that often and by that much, it obviously arrived at a few junctures when just one or two extra plays on either side of the ball would have permanently tipped the balance of power in its favor. Army could never make that play. The moments when this team’s focus needed to be at its best were the moments when the Black Knights’ focus dipped. That just can’t continue to happen, and it’s something that will be reflected in each of the next two game keys as well:

2 – 18-minute defense. Here’s a mind-blowing stat, one which rather fully explains why Army is 1-3 instead of 2-2 or 3-1: The Black Knights, in the final 18 minutes of games (plus overtime against Yale), have allowed a total of 80 points this season, for an average of exactly 20 points per game. The totals by game in the final 18 minutes (from the 3:00 mark of the third quarter to the final gun, plus overtime if applicable): 29 points allowed in the final 18 minutes against Buffalo; 21 against Stanford; 10 against Wake Forest; 20 against Yale. Army really is a team that cannot finish on defense. It goes back to the need to own the right – and biggest – moments.

3 – Fourth-quarter offense. Army’s fourth-quarter offense has also been poor this season. After scoring 13 in the fourth against Buffalo, a solid showing, the Black Knights’ offense has scored a total of just seven points in the last three fourth quarters. To put this problem in greater perspective, Army had scored 36 points in the first 37 minutes against Yale. That’s roughly a point-a-minute pace, as you can tell. In the final 23 minutes plus an overtime possession: seven points. Establishing an offense to such an extent in 37 minutes, only to lose steam in the following 23, helps show that this is a team that cannot finish on defense, either.

What does Marty Schottenheimer say? Focus and finish. That’s what Jeff Monken has to get through to his team… and it’s what this team has to be able to apply in real time on the Michie Stadium gridiron.

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