Air Force (1-1) — Lost to Michigan, 31-25. Air Force played well in a game that mirrored Navy’s contest with South Carolina last year in many ways. Like Navy, the Air Force offense was able to move the ball pretty well, but just couldn’t put one last drive together to win it in the end. Also like Navy, there was one player on the other team that the defense just couldn’t stop. For the Mids it was running back Marcus Lattimore that ran wild for 246 yards and 3 TDs. Air Force was just as helpless against Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who had touchdown runs of 79 and 58 yards on the way to 218 rushing yards to go along with 208 passing yards and two more touchdowns. The biggest surprise in this game was how poorly Michigan defended the option. They spent most of the game in a 3-deep 4-4, with the safety assigned to the pitch man. Sound familiar? No wonder Air Force was able to move the ball. After playing both Navy and Air Force several times in his career, you’d think that Brady Hoke would have known better.
(Of note is that after this game, Troy Calhoun not only elected not to address the media, but prevented his players from doing so as well. Shutting out the media is par for the course for Calhoun, who spends as much time imitating the “old Soviet Presidium” as he does criticizing it. But his players have “Service” and “Freedom” on their jerseys so calling him out for acting ridiculous probably makes me unpatriotic.)
Army (0-1) — Hoke’s old defensive coordinator at San Diego State knew better, though, as Rocky Long’s Aztecs trounced Army, 42-7. The Black Knights were able to drive to just inside the SDSU 30 on their opening possession, but were stopped for a loss on 4th & 1 and never really recovered after that. Army would get no closer than the San Diego State 44 until late in the third quarter, when Long took his foot off the gas up 35-0. Army did end up with 282 rushing yards, but a rash of fumbles and interceptions kept them from doing any damage while the game was in doubt. Army also had a couple of statistical standouts in Raymond Maples and Terry Baggett. However, 78 of Maples’ 107 rushing yards came after Army was down 35-0. Baggett was a little more successful, accumulating 40 of his 100 yards from the same point.
Long uses a 3-3-5, but in this game it was more of a 3-3-2-3 the way they lined up. What Long likes to do is to use those “2” to put an extra DB on either side of the formation to be #3 in the count, then have the free safety follow the pitch. This way, the offense has to block #3, but doesn’t have anyone left to get to the safety (indeed, Aztec safety Nat Berhe led all tacklers with 14). You should be able to run inside fairly well against this defense, but Army wasn’t able to do so consistently. Neither did Navy when they played San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl, although they did have some success through the air. Trent Steelman has a lot of strengths, but Army can’t rely on his arm to jump-start the offense.
Defense and special teams didn’t look any better for Army, as the Aztecs were able to run for 228 yards and 4 TDs as well as tacking on a 96-yard kickoff return for another TD. It was a disappointing start for an experienced Army team that came into the season with high hopes. Next up for Army is an NIU squad that gave Iowa all they could handle to start the year.
Bonus! Our brothers-in-option at The Citadel upset fellow optioneers Georgia Southern, 23-21. Spike is all over that one over at The Sports Arsenal. Based on the photo gallery, it looks like everyone’s diggin’ the shotgun lately.