September 9, 2012

Army-SDSU: The Day After

The enthusiasm and optimism dwindled early for the Black Knight fans. During the opening drive of Army's 2012 kickoff game, San Diego State drove the length of the field on a six play 71 yard march (70 on the ground) that ended on running back Walter Kazee's 4 yard touchdown run. This all occurred within the first 2:50 of contest.

Throughout the day, it was a combination of Kazee and running partner Adam Muema who demoralized the Black Knights on the ground, where they rushed for 51 and 98 yards respectively. Then add quarterback Ryan Katz's 14 for 21 passing for 215 yards, along with one touchdown as the Aztecs put up very encouraging numbers.

But more notable was SDSU's total number of offensive plays in Saturday's contest compared to a year ago. In 2011, the Aztecs ran off 43 plays, compared to a step up during yesterday's contest of 63 offensive plays.

Although the 30,799 viewing the game could equally attribute the disparity in offensive numbers to Army's inability to slow down ... actually stop SDSU's offense and perhaps more glaring was the Black Knights' inaptitude offensively.

If you look at the final stats, they would suggest that Army, who rushed for 282 yards on the ground, could effectively move the ball against Saturday's opponent. You would assume that with slotbacks Raymond Maples (107 yards) and Terry Baggett (100 yards) both breaking the century mark that Army had it's way offensively with SDSU.

Not even close. Army's disappearing act in the first half of game was direct result of a Steelman lead offense that reminded fans too much of last year's team that lead the nation in rushing, yes. But also an offense in 2011 that lead the nation in fumbles lost with 22. Hence, last year's inability to hold onto the ball simply offset anything potentially positive.

Unfortunately, yesterday prove to be more of the same as Steelman, who was starting his 35th game as a Black Knight had trouble all day with the center-quarterback exchange that resulted in two Army fumbles. Not to mention 4th year starter's poor decision to "lob" a pass to Maples during close of the 2nd quarter, that was intercepted by Eric Pinkins and ended any potential first half points for Army. On the day, Steelman would be intercepted twice.

As previously mentioned, the failure to show up on Saturday was shared by the offense, defense and even special teams (96 yard 3rd quarter SDSU kick-off return).

Defensively, the Black Knights were manhandled by the Aztecs' offensive line across the board. Not only fighting the size disparity, but both tackles, Bobby Kough and Mike Ugenyi looked uncertain and out of place relative to their specific roles within the Double Flex Army "D".

Yes, in 2010, the same method of defense was able to control games versus the past two years, where they have been the ones' controlled, especially up front.

And yes, that 2010 double flex defense had players like Josh McNary, Steve Anderson, Mike Gann, Donovan Travis, Jarrett Mackey, Steve Erzinger, Marcus Hilton, Donnie Dixon, Josh Jackson, Antuan Aaron, Richard King and Jordan Trimble. And no, these weren't head coach Rich Ellerson's recruits, but his predecessor's guys.

So perhaps, just perhaps there needs to be some rethinking in the process. Yes, 2010 would suggest that both offensively and defensively the schemes can work. But then again, one would have to look at the personnel, especially the Gann-less/Hilton-less size up front and wonder .... does Army have the players at the various positions to effectively execute the plan being rolled out by Ellerson and his staff.

Needless to say, yesterday's loss, combined with Air Forces' strong showing against #19 Michigan, along with the Todd Berry led LA-Monroe upset #8 Arkansas, 34-31 made yesterday's defeat to SDSU even more difficult for the Army faithful to digest.

Just our thoughts ... what do you thing?

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