The Anatomy Of A Successful Season

Why did Navy rise in 2012 while Air Force lost its hold on the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy and Army slightly regressed? That question can be answered in many legitimate ways. Here's one attempt to assess why the Midshipmen regained control of service-academy football last season.


WHAT A RUSH: NAVY WAS THE MOST GROUNDED ACADEMY TEAM IN 2012

What does that title mean? Simply this: Navy substantially outclassed its triple-option brethren from the academies in terms of turning a successful ground game into victories.

Any regular follower of service-academy football knows that in the era of the triple option, Army, Navy and Air Force will all outrush their opponents on many occasions. All three teams will typically be outpassed by their foes, due to a consistent and heavy reliance on the ground game for yardage. When the three academies are outgained in terms of total yardage, they might still claim more rushing yards. In 2012 (FBS games only), Army outrushed its opponents in 10 of 11 games. Navy outrushed opponents in 7 of 12 games. Air Force outrushed opponents in 8 of 12 games. If you think that academy teams will generally outrush their opponents, even without the threat of a dynamic passing game, you're right. This is not a myth or a lazy assumption that turns out to be incorrect on most occasions.

Here's one of several key reasons why Navy went 8-5, though, while Air Force and Army finished with losing records in 2012: Navy actually won a majority of the games in which it outrushed opponents. The Midshipmen won five of the seven games in which they outrushed an adversary. Air Force went 3-5 in the eight games in which it claimed more rushing yards. Army went 2-8 in the 10 games in which it outrushed the team on the other sideline. There's a lot more subtext to be unspooled here – one important detail is that Navy had a slightly more nimble and effective passing game than Air Force or Army. That small but important bit of diversity enabled Navy's higher rushing totals to be supplemented by just enough passing offense to win. In other words, Navy didn't lose the battle for passing yards as severely as Air Force and (especially) Army did last season. That's an important factor in the larger scheme of things. Nevertheless, the point still remains that Navy didn't allow a good rushing day to go to waste. Air Force and Army did.

That's how one season (in Annapolis) becomes a success, while two others (in Colorado Springs and West Point) fall short of the mark.

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