“Beat Navy,” Jeff Monken shouted toward the Corps of Cadets before a note in Army’s alma mater was played Saturday.
Army could finally focused all of its efforts on the biggest game of the year – Dec. 9 at Gillette Stadium.
The Black Knights, who will be riding a three-game winning streak into college football’s most storied rivalry, also added more game film for Navy’s defensive staff to watch after surprisingly opting to run 63 of its 64 plays from an under-center option.
After Army took four snaps from under center in a win over Holy Cross one week earlier, I asked coach Jeff Monken if it’s something Army might use more. Monken said that the offense had spent so much time with the new shotgun option that there might not be enough practice to invest in some plays with Army’s old flexbone or some variation.
Well, there was enough practice time in at least two days of practice leading up to the Coastal Carolina game as Monken said the team repped about 36 total plays under center. Makes one wonder if Army had added some under-center plays earlier would its win-loss record be any different. Would the Black Knights have beaten Boston College (27-24) or UMass (21-14) with some “flexbone” plays? Let the speculation begin.
Asked Monken at the press conference after the Coastal game following 365 rushing yards if there was any part of him that wishes Army would have gone to more under-center calls earlier in the season.
“Yeah, there is,” Monken said. “I think I probably entered the season thinking we could do a little bit of both. It’s not easy to do. Hard to serve two masters. What we’ve got to figure out is how we can make both of them work. You can’t have the same playbook that you had in the past with all the plays that we did under center, and then all the stuff we’ve done from the gun. You’ve kind of got to pick what you think you can be good at and what fits our team.”
Steve Anderson may have said it best on the Black Knight Nation podcast, All 11 Army players looked comfortable running the under-center option plays, all called by quarterback coach Cody Worley. Tyson Riley (112 yards) and Jakobi Buchanan (60 yards) returned to their B-back (fullback) position. Ay’Jaun Marshall and Tyrell Robinson were in the slot, combining for 99 yards on 14 carries. And, Bryson Daily was operating the under-center option as if he was running it all season, rushing for 94 yards on 24 touches.
Can’t say enough about team effort by players and coaches in making the under-center option work Saturday. Younger players Kanye Udoh and Noah Short, who have experienced success in the shotgun scheme, accepted lesser roles to veteran players with more flexbone “banked reps.” Monken said offensive coordinator Drew Thatcher was feeding Worley what he was seeing from the coach’s box. Humility in both ways.
Don’t know what will come out of quarterbacks coach Cody Worley calling all of the under-center plays (all but one) against Coastal. But, will say that there was a good flow to the play-calling. After Tyson Riley’s 43-yard run, Ay’Jaun Marshall took a pitch 11 yards for another first down. Daily kept for three yards. And, Marshall took another pitch 18 yards for a touchdown.
Who will be calling play against Navy? What scheme will Army run? Army can use the extra practice time to figure that out and perfect the under-center option or perhaps build a game plan including some shotgun like it did against Navy in last year’s overtime win.
Trying to think of an Army player that has had more of a sustaining impact on special teams in recent years more than sophomore Jabril Williams. One Army fan mentioned Andy Davidson, who was pretty good at blocking punts or pressuring the punter. Williams is blocking one week (Holy Cross) and scooping and scoring the next week (Coastal). He has two punt blocks (UConn last year) and two punt block return touchdowns (Navy last season) in his career. Army might not beat Coastal without Brett Gerena’s block and Williams’ return.
Army’s offense finally lined up under center on 4th-and-short for the first time this season. The result was not a conversion as Daily was stopped for no gain, running to the right from Coastal’s 17 early in the fourth quarter. Running behind center and getting a push is a popular call for most other teams in present day football. Not Army this season.
Army allowed 384 yards, 121 on Coastal Carolina’s three touchdown passes of 59, 31 and 31 yards.
Thinking about the Army generational fans that may have watched their last game from the their seats in the East stands. The Michie Stadium renovation project may break ground in the spring of 2024. Last November’s game against UConn was supposed to be the final game for fans in the east stands before construction but the project was put on hold.