This is a very interesting match up as the Warriors travel nearly 5,000 miles to play a team much smaller and slower than their last opponent, USC. Army returns home, 1-0, and hopes to continue their undefeated season by beating the favored Warriors.
In Ypsilanti, Michigan, Jared Hassin scored on a fullback dive, with 38 seconds left and Army was able to keep Eastern Michigan from scoring on a last play, Hail-Mary attempt, to preserve a 31-27 victory.
There were a lot of reasons to be pleased and reasons to be concerned with this performance.
Reasons to be pleased: the offense looked terrific, racking up 374 total yards. Steelman was good through the air. He missed his targets a few times, but was certainly competent. He hit Mealy for a 19 yard pass in the second quarter on a 3rd and long and then had a nice throw to George Jordan to start the winning drive in the fourth. Overall, he was 5-11 for 65 yards. He did a great job running the offense, but missed the slotback twice with pitches that were behind the runner.
Hassin is what was promised! He carried the ball 12 times for 68 yards and 3 touchdowns. He carried defenders into the end-zone on the final Army drive. He is big, fast and desperately needed. He did fumble twice - let's chalk that up to nerves rather than any similarity with Colin Mooney (lots of carries, lots of yards, lots of fumbles).
Mealy, Brown and Cobbs all look strong and fast. The offensive line did a nice job opening holes. The receivers also pitched in and sealed the corners well.
Reasons for concern: Defense - 285 yds rushing allowed on 51 carries - 5.6 yds per carry allowed; 4 touchdowns out of 4 trips to the red zone allowed; 8 out of 14 on 3rd and 4th down conversions allowed; and just one sack for a measly three yard loss. This performance was chalked up against Eastern Michigan - not Michigan, not Michigan State, but Eastern Michigan, arguably one of the worst football programs in the country. How? Why? Eastern Michigan ran at will against Army's "double eagle flex", a defense with a great track record for stopping the run everywhere Coach Ellerson has deployed it.
The problem may be that 6 of Army's starting defensive front 7 weigh 247 lbs or less. This is a stunningly small front 7, even by Army standards. They obviously did not hold up well against a less than imposing Eastern Michigan running attack. What team is out there that they can hold up against, and how in the world are they ever going to hold up against Duke, Temple, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Air Force or Navy?
Coach Ellerson has promised that he and his coaching staff will be far better and more able to make adjustments this year than last, but this is an adjustment that may be far beyond their ability to make as the season goes on. Unless they are able to recruit a couple of heavyweights off the wrestling team to tie up opposing blockers in the trenches, Army's lack of size up front on defense could become a major problem in a big hurry.
To be fair, many of EMU's yards were gained around the corners and by QB scrambles. It is possible that:
- The staff did not prepare for the new EMU offense
- The EMU offense is greatly improved, albeit completely predictable
- Army players took EMU lightly
Army had 7 penalties for 70 yards. There was an unsportsmanlike call after Army had scored their second touchdown, which really helped EMU tie the game before the half. Army could not line up correctly when punting in the fourth quarter; which had huge implications in terms of field position.
Special teams were improved, but kick-offs were shallow, punts were inconsistent and PK Alex Carlton badly missed a 41-yard field goal, although he did make a 42 yarder later on.
Army showed character and grit in the comeback, but they must play much better if they are to beat the Hawaiis and Dukes of the world.
At Aloha Stadium, the Warriors racked up 588 yards on the mighty Trojan defense, but lost a pretty good ball game 49-36.
Hawaii effectively moved the ball against USC. They utilize the "Run and Shoot" and every play is from the shotgun. Their QB Bryant Moniz is a very effective scrambler, runner and passer. He was 18-of-36 for 269 yards, one touchdown and ran for an additional 38 yards – he is really hard to tackle. Their receiving triplets, Pilares, Salas and Pollard caught passes for a total of over 400 yards.
As good as their offense was, their defense was horrendous. The only times that they stopped USC, is when the Trojans stopped themselves. USC was bigger and faster and Hawaii had great difficultly tackling in the open field.
The insiders will tell you that USC did not have one pre-season practice with pads and they were not prepared to really play a competitive game. Their previous trips to the island have been complete laughers and this was their first game under their new coach Lane Kiffen. All and all, it was a game where Hawaii had every reason to appear more competitive. However, Hawaii looked fast and elusive on offense.
Who is favored?
The Warriors are favored by 2.5 points.
What to look for?
Look for a 4 hour football game. Hawaii will throw the ball 30 times and time just lags with all the clock stoppages.
Look for a lot of scoring. Hawaii's defense may not stop Army's offense. They did a great job against Navy last year (W 24-17), but this game will be played at West Point and the Cadets are multi faceted. Hawaii will, from the very beginning, put 9 players in the box and dare Army to throw. Look for a big day from Hassin and Steelman as the middle will be the only place to run. Also look for Steelman to throw the ball 20 times. The linebackers must be kept out of the backfield – the Army staff has plenty of Hawaii game tape to know this.
Army's defense may not be able to stop Hawaii. Bryant Moniz was knocked out in the third quarter last week with a concussion. We will not know his status until later in the week. He is hard to tackle and he will give the Cadet Defense fits. Also, Pollard, the Hawaii receiver is pro caliber, but they also have two other threats in Pilares and Salas. The Army defense will be forced to gamble and will give up a lot of big plays. On the bright side, Hawaii's offensive approach might be a better matchup for Army's tiny front seven, as Hawaii does not figure to try grinding it out on the ground fifty times in this game. Instead, all of Hawaii's passing could lead to many opportunities for Army to pressure the QB. The game could swing in Army's favor if they are able to get a pass rush going that forces a turnover or two.
Hopefully the EMU game was a wake up call for the Army Defense. After all, it was just one game. Hawaii's offense will be as good as any they see this year - the defense will not get away with another poor performance this week like they did last week. For Army to win, they must win the ball control and turnover battles. The simple game plan will be to run Hassin and co. up the middle and between the tackles a lot and hit some long play-action passes over the top on offense, and dial up the pass rush on defense.
This will be a fantastic game to watch
Final Score – Army 28 – Hawaii 30 (predictions 2010 1-0)
Game will be shown on CBSSTV, 12:00PM EST.