The atmosphere was for the most part lacking, and neither team seemed particularly fired up for the game. It would appear that the inaugural Patriot Bowl is not long for this world based on their initial efforts. There was little press coverage and little downtown excitement about the game.
Army found themselves in a hole following the opening kickoff and except for a few good moments found things going slowly downhill all night.
The biggest disappointment of the night was the performance of the offense, more precisely the close to the vest playcalling that Army fans came to expect in the Ross era. Despite all of the excitement over the arrival of a new OC, the new "wrinkles" were non existent. Running plays are still slow to develop. There was not one misdirection play called all night. After a couple of carries, Mike Viti was invisible the rest of the night. Wesley McMahand handled all of the other carries and was able to manage 4 yards a carry. This one back attack did not work in the Todd Berry era and it's hard to believe that it'll work in this era, either.
The passing offense was a bit more palatable. Receivers are still unable to achieve separation and yards after catch just don't happen. David Pevoto was able to complete 23 passes, but only gained 184 yards, an average of 8 yards per catch. The other factor of this low average was the spotty play of the revamped offensive line. Pevoto was sacked 4 times and found himself under extreme pressure almost every time he faded back. This caused a lot of hurried throws and led to the TD interception in the first half. One would think that the use of some shotgun sets would present some different looks and give the quarterback some more time. It just didn't happen. Use of a no-huddle offense was helpful late in the game when Army was able to move the ball. Of course, this also reminds one of last year when the team was able to score a few touchdowns using this offense in garbage time. The question was asked last year why the no-huddle was not used earlier in some games. That question remains.
The play of the defense was both encouraging and somewhat distressing. The play against the run was improved over anything seen last year. The line was not pushed around and the linebackers filled holes pretty well. Although the pass rush did not fulfill expectations but was able to generate more pressure than last year. The distressing part continues to be the lack of speed in the secondary. Akron had only Jabari Arthur as a receiving threat yet he was still able to catch 11 balls for 125 yards, with the Army backs seemingly always a step behind. Our future schedule has teams with a lot more weapons than Akron. This does not bode well for the future.
The play of the special teams should be causing some sleepless nights for the Army coaching staff this week. Besides giving up the 2 big returns, the placekicking got off to a bad start. Both extra points looked like a couple of quails going through the uprights. It was obviously good to see the blocked punt in the last minute, but it was too little, too late.
Another big disappointment was Stan Brock's lack of agressiveness in his decision making. Punting twice while being inside your opponent's 40 is more of the NFL-like conservatism which was another hallmark of the Ross era. He was in 4 down territory, and if he wanted to send the message that there was a new sheriff in town, he passed up the perfect opportunities. Coupling that with his play not to lose offensive philosophy got things off to a bad start for him and his staff.
Akron was a winnable game, one of the precious few on the schedule. Things will be getting much tougher. The upcoming game against Rhode Island is a good time to throw caution to the wind and see what this team can accomplish.