Academy Football Review: Week Two
I'M GOING TO THROW THIS FASTBALL DOWN THE MIDDLE. LET'S SEE IF YOU CAN HIT IT.
The three FBS service academy teams all took the field on the same day for the first time in 2013. Army and Air Force moved up the ladder in terms of competition after warming up with FCS foes in late August. Yet, Navy – the team that didn't play in week one – looked crisper and more authoritative than either the Black Knights or the Falcons. The Men of Ken Niumatalolo pitched a gem on offense against an Indiana team that can score… but could not defend well enough to prevail on its home field. If you're going to carry the pitching metaphor all the way through for Navy-Indiana, this might not have been a perfect game for Navy's offense, but it was probably a no-hitter. Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper told Indiana's co-defensive coordinators, Mike Ekeler and Doug Mallory, "I'm going to throw this fastball over the plate at 100 miles per hour. No guesswork, no cat-and-mouse, no chess match. We're going to do what we do best, and you're just going to have to stop us."
Navy, you see, ran the ball 70 times on Saturday and passed the ball on only five snaps, completing just two passes. There were no secrets or mysteries to Navy's plan. Jasper and Niumatalolo double-dog-dared the Hoosiers to play assignment-based defense and choke off the triple option.
Indiana never could measure up, and since the Hoosiers were unable to recover an onside kick in a fourth quarter that was necessarily and logically filled with them, the Midshipmen took a giant step toward yet another winning season and bowl game. It is indeed one of the sweet feelings in sports to announce your attentions plainly to your opponent… and STILL dominate.
For Army and Air Force, the reality of week two wasn't nearly as enjoyable. Everyone in and around the Army program knows that the Black Knights do not own enough talent to withstand three turnovers, 90 penalty yards, and a missed field goal. That's a sure-fire recipe for disappointment, and now head coach Rich Ellerson knows how much he has to clean up in practice this week.
For Air Force, the dynamism of Utah State's offense simply outflanked the Falcons' defensive eleven all afternoon long in Colorado Springs. Motions and other pre-snap actions pulled Air Force linebackers out of position. Utah State used wheel routes and misdirection plays to throw the ball all over the yard against the Falcons, who were a step or two behind the Aggies all game long. Pass defense should be seen as the top priority for this team going forward. Air Force simply can't afford to absorb more double-digit scoreboard deficits in first halves of games.
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