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Army's Mid-Season Report

As Army heads into their off week, Coach Jeff Monken has some serious work ahead of him. Sitting at 2-5 and at the brink of bowl ineligibility, the Black Knights need to figure out how to close games if they want to consider the 2014 campaign a success.

At 2-5, Army has all but been eliminated from any post-season contention.
At 2-5, Army has all but been eliminated from any post-season contention.
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this is not how you want to start a season.

After starting the season with such promise, the Black Knights enter the midway point of the season at a disappointing 2-5. A team that had a veteran backfield and defensive front is currently ranked 4th in rushing offense but dead last in passing. While no one had either Angel Santiago or A.J. Schurr in their pre-season list for the Davey O'Brien Award (nation's top quarterback), their inability to convert 3rd downs has crippled their ability to close out games.

In every game this season, except for Stanford and Rice, Army has either held a lead or been within one score entering the 4th quarter. Then Army seems to stop driving and cannot  get opposing teams off the field. Most teams that fall apart at the end of games suffer from a lack of discipline or team chemistry, two qualities that do not describe the men who are training to be officers in the world's greatest military.

A better explanation can be found in their offensive and defensive front. Both units returned a lot of veteran upper-classmen and their offseason weight training added well over 1000 pounds of muscle in an attempt to make teams struggle in blocking and rushing the line. Service academies have strict restrictions on incoming students that prohibits coaches from recruiting beefier linemen that are seen at the other 125 FBS schools.

Much blame can also be focused on the offensive backfield. Larry Dixon and Santiago have shown great promise in games against Buffalo and Ball State, but the overall absence of Terry Baggett has been felt. The triple option works best when the quarterback, dive man, and pitch man are all viable threats. Dixon is averaging 5.6 yards a carry and Santiago is at 5.1.

Baggett, while averaging a staggering 7.7 yards per carry, has yet to eclipse the century mark in a game and his lone score came early against Buffalo. If Army wants to turn their season around, they will need all 3 areas of their option attack to show up, extend drives, and secure the football in the red zone.

At a glance, the defensive side of the ball should bear some blame as well. Even despite their offensive woes, Army has dominated the time of possession in every game but Buffalo (1 second difference), Rice (3 minute difference), and Kent State (7 minutes difference). Even against Stanford's defense, Army held the ball for 7 more minutes than the Cardinal.

While fatigue cannot be attributed to Army's defense, the lack of a pass rush is a huge factor. Army has only produced 6 sacks, which is tied for 117th in the country. Army has a talented secondary that can keep up with most programs' receivers, for a short amount of time. With no pressure, a quarterback has time to go through their progressions and the receivers have time to get open. Teams that have fallen behind against Army have thrown their way back into games while the defense struggles to contain the passing attack.

The Black Knights get to rest this weekend and spend some time trying to figure out their season. So far, only Miami of Ohio has been officially eliminated from any post season play. However, another loss would all but ensure that Army stays home this December. Their next opponent, Air Force, may put the final nail in the coffin. At 5-2, the Falcons have a potent rushing attack and a stalwart defense that spends every week practicing against a triple option offense. Army may join Miami as a team with no bowl chance, especially with another FCS school in Fordham on the schedule.

The bright side to Army's season: Navy looks very beatable this year. And in any rivalry game, statistics and records can be thrown out the window. Monken and company can still save the season if they can strap up and end their losing streak to Navy. Ending their season with a win over the Midshipmen would probably be a better prize than going to a bowl game anyways, unless its in the Bahamas.