I'm usually not someone who makes a point looking at other scores on the opponent's schedule, but before I get into the specifics of the 21-17 win over Army at Kyle Field I think it is something to note that the Black Knights lost 35-7 to lowly Temple, 28-10 to non D-1 program New Hampshire, and 22-3 to Akron…all three at West Point. New Hampshire and Akron gained more yards against Army (322, 357) than the Aggies (290).
In talking to people after the game, much of the focus was on the defense and the inability to stop Army's triple option. That perception came from the second half when the Black Knights controlled the clock and kept the Aggie offense off the field. However, the Aggies started off the game forcing four straight punts, with the first three drives netting a mere six yards. However, the Aggie offense matched that ineptness with three consecutive three-and-outs and 20 yards.
The Aggie offense was given every chance to seize control of this game early, and they failed miserably. Had A&M jumped on Army 21-0 early, the game would have turned into a rout given the Black Knights' inability to throw the football. Instead, the lack of offensive firepower allowed Army to stick with the triple option gameplan, tweak a few things, and then finally sustain some long, time consuming drives that kept Army in the game until the last couple of minutes.
The offense has been sporadic all season, scoring two quick touchdowns against Arkansas State and then sputtering the second half. The Aggies again jumped out to an early lead against New Mexico but struggled to score in the second half. The offense had a hard time scoring in the first half against Miami and of course the unit managed only one score in the first half against Army and only two scores on the day. Without defensive touchdowns, the Aggies could be sitting at 0-4.
A lot has been made of Stephen McGee's performance before he was injured. Yes, he was the signal caller during the first three drives that managed 20 yards and three punts. But he was also the quarterback that engineered the 90-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a perfect 42-yard strike to freshman Jeff Fuller. On paper, McGee finished his day 7-of-9 (78% completion) for 104 yards (15 yds/catch). Those are good numbers by any comparison. Jerrod Johnson completed six passes in 10 attempts (60%) for 53 yards (9 yds/catch) and an interception on his first pass.
I've heard many Aggies say that the offense was lethargic under McGee and came to life when Johnson entered the game in the second quarter. Well, the A&M offense scored one touchdown with McGee in under a half, and the offense scored one touchdown with Johnson in just over a half of football. A strong case can be made that the offense was lethargic regardless of the quarterback. Maybe the offense is bad for other reasons than the quarterback?
Running Back D
With the lack of quickness and other liabilities in the offensive line, A&M needs a running back to hit the holes quickly with acceleration. That's something Michael Goodson doesn't do. Goodson is an extremely talented running back, but his style does not play well with this offensive line. Long developing running plays to the outside plays into Texas A&M's weakness up-front and it played into the ONE strength Army had on defense which was the quickness of the under-sized linemen. Goodson averaged 1.8 yards/carry.
Jorvorskie Lane and the offensive line had no problems driving straight ahead and knocking those small linemen off the ball. Lane earned those short yardage carries with improved blocking against Miami, and I think now's the time to start using him in other situations. Like it or not, Franchione left A&M with the ability to do one thing – drive blocking and power running. I know the staff wants to implement a pro style offense, but you can still do it with a 280-pound tailback going straight ahead and also throwing some swing passes out to him with his great hands.
Wide Receiver C
This position has really come along this season and has been one of the few bright spots with the emergence of freshman Jeff Fuller. The rookie already has four touchdowns and he's averaging a hefty 14.9 yards/reception. His downfield abilities have been a pleasant surprise. Ryan Tannehill is right on his heels statistically despite missing last week's game against Miami. His incredible 26-yard jump ball catch shows that he's not just a guy with height and speed, he's also a natural pass catcher with excellent hand-eye coordination. With these two physically superior to the Black Knight secondary, you have to wonder why the staff didn't take more shots downfield. This is where A&M had its major advantage on offense, yet the unit threw only 19 passes and many of those were running back screens.
Tight End C
Jamie McCoy is becoming a preferred target and a weapon on this Texas A&M offense. He snagged five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. His blocking was a little inconsistent on Saturday, but overall I think he's putting good effort into that part of his game.
Offensive Line F
First of all, we know that this offensive line is extremely short-handed right now. We said in the fall that if Travis Schneider went down, this line was in trouble. Well, he was out this week and Robbie Frost took his spot. So while the offensive line is receiving my first F of the season, I do realize that they are putting in good effort and they are doing the best they possibly can. This isn't a situation of talented players simply not performing or putting in the effort. These prospects were recruited and developed to be big, bad drive blocking machines, and they are being asked to use agility and quickness that just isn't there. Army's undersized and quick linemen had a field day shooting the gaps and blowing up any play going outside. Once A&M decided to run right at them with Lane at the end, you saw better success. Still, the offensive line must protect the quarterback, and after four games both signal callers have been hurt twice. That's not good, but at this point I don't know what they can do. The hand has already been dealt here, unless the staff concedes and goes to a power running game the rest of the way which isn't likely.
Offensive Coaching F
I understand this is a learning process and these games in 2008 are serving as a stepping stone to future success, and that future success depends on an efficient and effective pro style offense with plenty of wide plays and screens. However, at some point you have to look up at the scoreboard against an inferior opponent and do whatever it takes to control the ball game. Army consistently sniffed out the screen passes and attacked Goodson on long developing run plays. The way to beat Army was to go up-top and throw down the field. They were selling out to stop the run, and they had nobody in the secondary that could match-up with Fuller, Tannehill, and McCoy. Yet, those three only caught seven passes and not many more balls were thrown their way. Goodson touched the ball 16 times for 46 yards. Fuller touched it once for 42 yards. Tannehill touched it once for 26 yards, and McCoy touched it five times for 60 yards. Then there was Lane and the power running game, which has proven to be successful with this personnel held over from Franchione. Army couldn't stop it, but A&M didn't use it until it was time to milk the clock. Overall, I felt the offensive staff did not take advantage of the areas where A&M was clearly superior.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE D-
Hop's report card - Offense
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