Playing up and down to your competition was a significant flaw of many TOB teams. This team didn’t play down to Army, but did enough stupid things to give the Cadets a glimmer of hope. Watching it back was enlightening but didn’t make me feel any better.
There is now a blueprint on how to play Matt Ryan. When Army stopped sending guys at him midway through the second quarter, their defense became more effective. With three down linemen and eight guys dropped into coverage, Matt pressed and had to force some throws. He did adjust with some success with the first two TD drives in the second half, but Army (and NC State two weeks ago) made Ryan look worse by letting up and not blitzing. I judged nine of his passes to be off target. That’s gonna happen when you throw it 50+ times but he was not his sharpest. I liked seeing him run a bit. If this is how teams are going to play us, he’s going to have to fight his instincts to look for the big TD and run a little.
Callender played well again. He didn’t spend as much time blocking as he did last week, but really is showing great ability in the zone scheme. He sees the hole and excels through it. And managed to be productive on a day when the line did not play well. The one blemish: AC did drop what should have been a Ryan TD pass. LV was ok, but is still too quick to give up on the line and make something happen on his own (without success). McLuskey was off to another strong game until his knee got twisted. True freshman Newman stepped up in his place and looked effective in a few plays.
Purvis and Loyte should hold their heads high. They played well and Purvis especially has shown the ability to tack on a few yards after he catches the ball. Robinson was productive but had a few passes he should have pulled in (not a true drop, but catchable balls). Challenger also had some good moments but the fumble was terrible. In review it looked like he was down, but a senior should know to protect the ball at all times. Gunnell and Megwa looked good. Jarvis’ play on the sideline was nice. In total only three bad drops for the entire unit.
The offensive line did not play very well. Clif Ramsey had all sorts of trouble and was eventually replaced by Ty Hall. Castonzo did nothing of note (good or bad). Tennant looked okay but much of the penetration came from the middle of the line (even after Ramsey was pulled). I am not sure if the penetration was Tennant’s fault for missing his keys or if this is just a general weakness in the zone scheme. Poles looked good but still got called for a dumb holding call. Cherilus, like Castonzo, didn’t do anything to note (which shouldn’t be the case for a first rounder). There were also a few times in the stretch runs when the left side got stuffed. Not a good sign. Ultimately when Army tested us to run and we didn’t respond until AC broke it late. The offensive line should take that as a challenge.
I have no problem with Steve Logan calling pass plays when other coaches would be killing clock. I have no problem with Steve Logan calling pass plays deep in our own endzone. I have a teensy bit of a problem with Steven Logan still calling pass plays when the other team is dropping eight and daring us to run. Logan knows more about play calling than I ever will and I do trust him and have really enjoyed this season. But this one small gripe is somewhat legit. I think other teams will employ the same strategy as Army and Ryan and Logan will have to adjust and call a few run plays. But overall Logan does deserve credit for producing 37 points and over 580 yards of total offense.
The Defense: B
The defensive line regulars had their moments but no one played well for 60 minutes. Brace was disruptive early but faded late. Willette had one of his better games. We had a Albright sighting after a pretty slow start to the season. Ramella made a few plays but didn’t look as good as he did at the beginning of the year. Giles was quiet. Rossi got some solid minutes but let an INT fall through his hands.
Herzlich deserved the game ball because he played better than everyone on the field. He’s great run stopper. Showed how he can cover. He played hard and smart throughout. Dunbar had a few moments and looked good on the goalline, but did not play with his usual consistency. Pruitt looked lost at times…it was a real step back from his great play last week. McLaughlin looked ok. Francois looked good despite not getting tons of minutes. Akins looks like he’s running in cement shoes. The announcers made reference to his weight. Something is off because he isn’t nearly as explosive as he was last season.
Army didn’t throw at Tribble much and he looked overpowered when trying to shed blocks. Morris had one of his better games and has been a real surprise of the season. Anderson didn’t play great and has trouble in pass coverage. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bowman sees more of Anderson’s time in the next few weeks since he played well against Army. Bowman made some real strong tackles throughout. Strong game from Silva (but many of his contributions came on special teams).
Spaz went basic throughout. Very little blitzing and straying from the three-down look he used frequently through the first three games. Many of Army’s yards came off of big plays not from schemes. I think that is more on the guys losing focus, not on what Spaz planned. Nothing special, but the defense was the best part of the game.
Special Teams: C-
As I mentioned in my initial post-game comments, the special teams looked like a Petercuskie unit. We fair catch nearly every punt. We fell asleep on the fake field goal. The kickoffs are finally going deep…only to see our coverage fall apart. Aponavicius was a mess. Why are we even going for 43 yarders with him? Geiser had some low snaps but did not have as rough a game as the announcers claimed. My biggest problem with the special teams were the kick returns. For the second consecutive week and on two separate returns on Saturday the returners allowed the ball to bounce around without any sense of urgency. Unacceptable. That is a mental error and shouldn’t be happening with two SRs in the fourth game of the season.
Style points don’t count in the win-loss column and winning bad games by 20 is a great indicator for future success (I'll have more on that later this week). Hopefully this is the worst of it. I’m glad Jags went after the team and showed his disappointment. It was an uneven effort but like the good efforts, you have to learn from the game, move on and get ready for UMass.