Halftime adjustments: During the course of the year, Army has frequently gotten off to a good start, only to see their initial success soon turn into a group that seems to have trouble getting out of its own way. This has been especially true in the beginning of the second half, when the Cadets have had many three-and-outs and any momentum built in the first half quickly disappears. Many fans have said that this points to Rich Ellerson's staff being out-coached, with the opposition seemingly with all the answers, while Army stays the same.
But think about it for a minute. Just how tough is it for opposing coaches to adjust to Army's offense? As we discussed in the previous article, Army's offensive package starts out vanilla and seemingly gets more conservative as the game progresses. Opposing coaches have talked all year about how tough it is to prepare for an option offense, even one as unimaginative as the one the Black Knight's run out there. But after they see a few reps of what Army has to offer, it hasn't been rocket science to start shutting it down. Teams have shut down the running lanes for the fullback dive and pinched the corners so that big plays by the slots just aren't there. This leaves Trent Steelman as a one-man gang trying to keep Army in the game. He did it with his arm in the VMI game and with his legs in the North Texas contest. But in the games where he has been contained, the offense has had to be content with one touchdown per game. Considering that, Army's 5-6 record is nothing to sneer at. But it isn't the Cadet offense that deserves the accolades; it's the defense.
Defensively, Army's double-flex has been a problem for the opposition in the first half of games. The one revelation for this team has been its ability to shut down running plays and actually generate decent pressure on the quarterback consistently. Their first half against Air Force was nothing short of amazing. But the second half tells a different story. There have been games where the defense plays well even then ( Temple, Vandy). But once the pressure is no longer generated, the defense has been guilty of a ton of missed tackles and a propensity to give up big plays, both by the run and pass. And the years-long bugaboo of not being able to get off the field, due to the offense's inability to convert third downs (and sometimes fourth) leaves this group looking gassed by the fourth quarter. Throw in turnovers and the opposition constantly starting in great field position because of Army's inability to cover kicks. It's tough for this group to play well for 60 minutes.
So are the defensive problems a result of Army's staff not being able to adjust? That's open to debate, but the thought here is that the staff is getting as much out of this group as it's going to get. And they have made some big plays down the stretch during certain games, such as Ball State, Vanderbilt and North Texas. And of course, finally making some plays late in the VMI game averted a major disaster against a struggling 1-AA team.
Next time, we'll take a look at the special teams and the 'losing culture' Rich Ellerson is striving to change.
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