Zemek: Army 2005 victory over ASU misleading

Indians, Black Knights, and Statistics: Lies, Truths, and More Football Banking Remember the point about timely deposits and timely withdrawals from the football equivalent of a bank account? That theme won't be harped on every week, but before Army's 2006 curtain-raiser against Arkansas State, it's worth considering one more time in a specific individual case study.

After all, Arkansas State--who hosts Army this Saturday--paid a visit to West Point last November, and the results were very illuminating.

When the Indians came to town over nine months ago, it was Senior Day, and Carlton Jones' dominant 187-yard performance fueled an Army victory, the fourth consecutive triumph for Bobby Ross' team. But aside of that one eye-popping stat, the rest of the game wasn't dominated by Army... not in a statistical sense, at any rate.

Army football diehards surely remember the score of that contest on November 19 of last year, but play along with me and try to blot out that score in your mind. Just look at some of the facts and figures from last year's Arkansas State game:

First downs: 18-16, Army.

Yards: 377-290, Army (plus 87, not a whopping total).

Passing yards: 125-77, Arkansas State.

Penalties: 9 to 8, Arkansas State.

Penalty Yards: 79-75, Arkansas State.

Third down conversion percentage: 37.5 percent for Arkansas State, 33.3 percent for Army. (ASU with 16 tries, Army with 12.)

Time of possession: 30:29 to 29:31 in favor of Army (plus 58 seconds).

Ladies and gentlemen of the corps of Cadets, this was a statistically even football game. How the heck did the final score manage to be 38-10 in favor of Army?

Remember, folks: there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Much like the Akron game, Army won this contest going away because of timely deposits and timely withdrawals from the football bank account. Army used its natural talent--specifically in the form of Jones, a supremely accomplished player who played big--to do much of the damage, but the Black Knights--pushed and driven by the motivation and energy of Senior Day--found a higher level of performance whenever the visitors from the Ozarks sagged. Army pounced during the emotionally fragile and unpredictable moments of this game, and that's precisely what it means to make a "football deposit" into a gridiron bank account. Army was never in danger of losing this game, but Bob by Ross' troops maximized their scoreboard margin even when their level of overall dominance was not reflected in the stats. Army played well during the periods of time when good play meant the most... both on the scoreboard and in terms of momentum. The Black Knights coasted home in the second half, but they turned on the afterburners in the first half when the Indians were vulnerable and sluggish.

With all this as prelude, the Black Knights--besides the obvious key of running the ball well (300 yards rushing will win a football game every single time)--will need to beat Arkansas State this time around with more timely deposits. If Arkansas State hands Army three more turnovers (as in last year's contest), Army will need to convert with the same ruthless efficiency it displayed last November. If the Indians show any signs of getting their teeth into the football game this Saturday, Army needs to rediscover the killer instinct it displayed last season, when the Black Knights smothered ASU by rolling to a 28-3 halftime lead. It's a classic case of knowing when to play big: if Army can smother the Indians early on, recent history--from November of 2005--suggests that Arkansas State won't be able to get off the deck. Then the Cadets will have a winning record to start the 2006 campaign. Much more importantly, though, they'll realize once again how important it is to make timely deposits of effort, concentration and talent utilization during a Division I-A football game.


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