September 5, 2011

Army - NIU Report Card: The Offense

As is our tradition on GoBlackKnights.com that after every game we present our Weekly Report Card for the Army Black Knights. Coming off Saturday's 49-26 loss to Northern Illinois, there is much work to be done as the team prepares for San Diego State this Saturday at Michie Stadium.

Our report, which will be separated by the offense and defense, after our staff has had time to make our own assessment of the game.

QUARTERBACK

This clearly did not look like the Trent Steelman that Army fans have become accustomed to seeing and surely wasn't the Steelman like performance they anticipated to start the 2011 season.

Ironically, it has always been the junior quarterback's decision making that has separated him from any competition within the program, along with his durability and toughness. And no observers would ever think to confuse Steelman with Peyton Manning when it comes to passing.

However, on Army's first three possessions on Saturday, each series saw Steelman pass on first down and surprisingly throw the ball three times out of the nine plays that the Black Knights ran from scrimmage.

On Army's third series, the pattern continue with Steelman passing on first down .... albeit hitting Jared McFarlin, who was able to showcase and showoff his skills on Saturday.

When it came to the overall passing game, the junior quarterback was relatively effective in his intermediate passes, especially his pass and catch routine with McFarlin. However, anything the range was unlaunched in the Black Knights' arsenal. Although Steelman did connect with senior receiver Davyd Brooks on nice over shoulder catch for 37 yards to the NIU two yard line that was followed on the next play with Steelman sneaking it in for six.

On the ground, which is where Steelman earns his keep, he rushed for 63 yards and an unimpressive and ineffective 2.2 YPC.

However, if there is anything that best summarizes Steelman's overall performance on Saturday would have to be a recap of his fumble on Saturday.

Reminiscence of the 2010 Army-Navy game, Steelman, who saw his team trailing 35-6 was hit just as he was about to make make the pitch and fumbled the ball away on the NIU 1 yard line. This killed the drive and any possibility of the Black Knights making a comeback.

In the air, Steelman finish the day hitting 5 of his 11 passes and threw one interception.

Senior Max Jenkins who stepped in the 4th quarter as the game had already been decided, was effective in limited and abbreviated action.

GRADE: C-

RUNNING BACKS

From our observation, NIU could not shut down Army's running game, especially on the perimeter. Both Malcolm Brown and Trenton Turrentine were effective off tackle and beyond, where they finished the day with 92 (10.2 avg.) and 68 yards (6.2 avg.) respectively.

However, the same could not be said about the inside game of the Black Knights. It was apparent that two things slowing Army's inside rushing game ... meaning fullback Jared Hassin. One was the Huskies obvious key on the 1,000 plus rusher, but also the Black Knights' decision to utilize Hassin as a decoy much of the game, where he finished the day with a meagerly 7 rushing attempts. Obviously far less than the typical 20 carry rushing day that the junior is accustomed to.

So as NIU picked their poison, by keying in on Hassin as well as Steelman ... not to mention that the Black Knights were playing the contest at a deficit, it appeared that NIU was willing to play the defensive role of "bend, but not break".

In addition to Turrentine's impressive freshman debut, fullback Larry Dixon, who rushed for 21 yards on 7 carries may a strong case for himself when it comes to getting more game day reps and carries. The 6-foot-0, 220 pounder is a load who can move as well.

Starting slotback Raymond Maples, who had double duty as the kickoff returner, just could not get himself going on Saturday and finished the day with 25 yards on 5 carries.
double duty as the kickoff returner, just could not get himself going on Saturday and finished the day with 25 yards on 5 carries.

GRADE: B

WIDE RECEIVERS

Army's package of pass plays were relatively elementary .... short and intermediate .... however, they proved to be very effective.

The biggest performance came from sophomore wide out, Jared McFarlin who continues to confirm what Offensive Coordinator Ian Shields said about the New York native last week.

"I think Jared McFarlin is going to be the creme of the crop when it's all said and done," shares Shields. "He's the most natural of the group and he's 6'5". He's a young Ramsey Barden (former Cal Poly WR) ... we're hoping."

McFarlin pulled down 4 passes for 35 yards, although it appeared that he had more receptions. McFarlin also caught a 4th quarter 11-yard touchdown from backup quarterback, Max Jenkins and was very effective in his downfield blocking.

Although he has lost his starting spot, senior Davyd Brooks took advantage of his playing time on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 212 pounder only caught one pass, but it was the catch of the day. He was able to make an over the shoulder catch with two NIU defenders blanketing him for a 37 reception that lead to a one yard Steelman QB sneak touchdown on the subsequent play.

GRADE: A

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Army offensive front five has been getting that "can they make it happen up front" vibe for months from fans here at GoBlackKnights.com and other members of the media, and Saturday they were finally unleashed.

Overall, the unit didn't disappoint, as Army's offensive line managed to effectively make room for the Black Knights' runners all day, albeit more less effective between center and the guards.

Although one would be reluctant to suggest as the old phrase goes, To coin "He could have brushed his teeth back there", Steelman was only sacked one time and that was a result of solid NIU coverage.

GRADE: B

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