It seems that at this time each year, I find myself turning on the current iteration of NCAA Football and subjecting myself to the mysteries of the Option offenses used by Army and Navy as their yearly clash draws near. Last year, my “Rivalry Rundown” series on the official NCAA Football 11 page saw me play not just the Army-Navy game, but all three match-ups between the three service academies that compete in Division I college football (Army, Navy, and Air Force). Since last year I took control of Navy in the rivalry showdown, for STAT BOX STORIES this year I decided that I would take control of the Army Black Knights.
Unfortunately for Army and the Navy Midshipmen, this weekend’s Army-Navy game will be the last game of the season for each team; even though both institutions have bowl game tie-ins, neither team finished the 2011 campaign bowl-eligible. As a result, a game which is always hotly contested between these teams promises to be even more of a battle when they meet on the gridiron.
Compared to the game I played last year—a 34-21 win for Navy which featured 31 points scored in a wild second quarter—this year’s installment of my time with the Option offense was much lower scoring. I won the coin toss and elected to kick to begin the game and receive the ball to start the second half; my usual decision, as loyal readers here know. On the first Navy offensive drive, they tried to catch me off-guard by throwing deep; unfortunately for the Midshipmen, my cornerback intercepted the pass. Unfortunately for me, I got the ball on my own 1-yard-line to start my first possession of the game. As a result—when I was forced to go three-and-out—I had to punt and only managed to force Navy to their own 48. From there, Navy took advantage of their good field position and put a 43-yard field goal through the uprights for a 3-0 lead.
When I got the ball back for my first possession with decent field position, I was able to run some time off of the clock with the primarily-rushing attack before eventually settling for a 28-yard field goal and a tie game at the close of the first quarter. With one quarter down, Navy got the ball and appeared to have a long touchdown rush to grab a 10-3 lead; however, some “laundry” was on the field and their offensive lineman had been flagged for holding, nullifying the penalty and forcing an eventual punt when Navy’s drive stalled out. I was unable to take advantage of my good fortune when an errant pass was picked off by Navy inside my own 20-yard-line, however, giving the Midshipmen a solid opportunity to put more points on the board. My defense played strong with their backs against the wall on the next drive, and consecutive negative plays for Navy led to a 51-yard field goal attempt which went wide right.
Taking advantage of positive field position of my own, I drove far enough to put through a 43-yard field goal to take a 6-3 lead with just over a minute remaining in the first half. After kicking the ball back to Navy, their one-minute offense rumbled down the field—converting many first downs in a row—until they were in range for a 40-yard field goal to tie up the game at 6-all as the first half expired.
In the third quarter, I made it a point to try and establish control over the game with the first possession of the half. In a drive which went on for nearly four minutes on the game clock, I eventually took a quarterback option run into the end zone from four yards out for the game’s first touchdown and a 13-7 lead. Both Navy and Army suffered three-and-outs on their next possessions, and when Navy took the ball again at their own 15-yard-line a poorly-thought-out pass to the sideline was intercepted by an Army defender.
It did not take long for me to take advantage of this key defensive play; on the very next play from scrimmage, my fullback rumbled 19 yards for a touchdown under a minute into the final quarter and put the score at 20-6. On the ensuing Navy possession, they faced 4th-and-12 and decided to try to convert with 5:18 remaining in the game. Though the pass attempt went out of bounds, Army’s quarterback was stripped of the ball on the very next play and the Midshipmen were able to resume their attempt at a comeback. The Army defense once again responded, however, sacking Navy’s quarterback on 2nd and 3rd downs to force a punt. From there, a well-orchestrated drive—highlighted by a 35 yard pass completion on 3rd-and-13—ran out the clock and sealed the Army victory.
All told, neither team had a particularly effective day on offense. The 248-138 total offense comparison is one of the lower totals we’ve seen in NCAA Football 12 action here at STAT BOX STORIES. Each team favored the run due to their Option offense styles—Army running the ball 42 of their 50 plays and Navy running 33 times in 45 plays—though Army gained nearly 100 yards more on the ground than Navy. Neither team was effective in the passing game, with each team completing only three passes. Turnovers were even, but Army was the only team able to find the end zone in the course of the game.
It was an easy selection for Player of the Game, as Army’s FB #7 rushed for 127 yards on 28 carries including the 19-yard touchdown run; he was by far the single most efficient player on the field. The passing game—as the team stats showed—was atrocious, but this is almost to be expected in a showdown of Option offenses. Receivers were widely neglected for the most part, with only three completions on each side of the ball. The defenses had solid days, though for Navy’s MLB #44 a 14 tackle game unfortunately came in a losing effort.
With this NCAA Football 12 rivalry game victory in the yearly Army-Navy game, I finish the week here at STAT BOX STORIES with a perfect 4-0 record; not a bad start to the first week of December 2011. Be sure to come back tomorrow when the first-ever Guest Entry for STAT BOX STORIES will go live; a NHL 12 match-up between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins courtesy of Eric Veneziano!