There are a number of reasons NT gave up 480 yards rushing to Army in the bowl game. NT did not always stop the FB dive for one, and that made the rest a bit easier. Army’s staff is good at countering adjustments, and make calculated risks that help them keep drives going when they otherwise would stall. NT had Army ‘stopped’ on three downs a handful of times but Army converted on fourth.
Each play can be picked apart but we do not have all day to break down 78 Army plays. So we will grab a look at some representative ones.
In this video we see the series that led to Ahmad Bradshaw’s long TD run to put the lead at 10.
The first down run is a designed pitch, not really an option. NT wrangles this easily. Fred Scott shows a run blitz, Jareid Combs shakes off the FB block. Cortney Finney starts the play from nearly 10 yards behind the line (in order to diagnose the play, and get around blocks easier) and scopes out the design quickly. Three NT players are around the ball when he cuts up field.
On second down Roderick Young destroys the FB dive (and runs him three yards back) while Combs (#7) gives the QB a keep look (he turns his shoulders and displays his numbers to him) and follows that up with a nice shuffle to stay between the QB and pitch man. Meanwhile, Fred Scott (#32) shed his block and is trailing the QB.
Here is where it could have been better: Bradshaw shakes Combs, cuts inside and Scott’s tackle gives Army a few extra yards. NT had this schemed perfectly, but Army made the better football play. Bradshaw turned a 1-yard gain into a 7-yard run. Then came the big play.
After two (in this series) straight plays to the boundary, James Gray (#21) sees motion and sprints to the edge – including getting around the referee. His eye discipline is poor as he is looking toward the edge and instead of at his keys. Meanwhile Bradshaw is following his FB up the middle. The FB blocks Fred Scott, who was filling his lane correctly. The LG and LT double up on Andy Flusche, leaving the extra lineman (Army 78?) to block Combs. Two things happen here: (1) Finney is cut by the center, sheds his block, and is delayed just enough to be out of position and lose Bradshaw and (2) James Gray overran the play. If he slow-rolls, he would be in place to fill the gap and make the tackle.
Later in the 10 minute 35 second drive that ate up so much clock, this series (and the others that came before) had an effect. Here is a good example:
James Gray is left “unblocked” insofar as he is the man unassigned. His man is the pitchman, and yes, the fact that he has to travel the furthest is by design. Gray already overran one play and here hesitates for half a second on the pitch. Remember Bradshaw just burned him for a ton of yards earlier and we can see him thinking about it. That slight slow-step allows the pitchman to get the necessary five yards.
Gif and Video:
Stopping the option requires a balance of two things: discipline and athleticism. If you have athleticism and not discipline, you will get optioned to death. If you have more athleticism and less discipline, your speed and strength can make up for the mental mistakes. This is all not new stuff, but we can see that lesson here. North Texas was not disciplined enough to stop Army, and did not have the necessary athleticism to make up for those mistakes. And so we have 480 yards on the board.
If the linebackers or safeties had otherworldly speed to make up steps (Finney on the Bradshaw TD, Gray on the pitch etc) they could have stopped these example plays. Maybe the line throws off the blocks a bit easier and blow up everything before it gets started. In this game Army out-executed North Texas and won the individual athleticism battles in key situations. Look again at Bradshaw scooting around Combs in that second down play and later outrunning Finney.
Its about the Jimmys and Joes and the Xs and Os.
To illustrate my point, here is the 4th and 4 stop. Watch KiShawn McClain fly in to make the stop that James Gray did not earlier. Athleticism and discipline. Number 23 is a really good player. Although for sake of fairness, we should point out that he did not fill his lane on the 70-yard TD in the first quarter, instead trying to shoot in for a stop instead of filling his lane. That was athleticism (he nearly made the stop) without discipline.