Army football is surprising again. They are up 28-13 against undefeated Buffalo, which was the 7.5 point favorite, in the fourth quarter. I frequently express my annoyance at their not reading my Football Clock Management book. But today they ran a play from it—the fake take-a-knee.
That is an unusual play in that I was criticized heavily for it as being unethical. Those critics are not reading it carefully enough. It would be unethical and probably get whistled dead if the QB started to take a knee literally. But my book just says to align in a take-a-knee formation then run the play without any indication that it is a take a knee other than the formation and the situation. That is what Army did. It failed. Looked like a tailback pass where the tailback did not get enough reps. The actual normal QB was the passer, but the protection was not working. Army was actually penalized for intentional grounding. That just resulted in the half ending.
Am I sure they got the play from my book? No. But that particular play is very controversial. It is probably not in any other coaching book. Army could have just dreamed it up on their own.
Block the kick then scoop and score
There was another play that people who coached with me or against me would say, “Jack, they read your book.” Again, I do not know that they got it from me, but it is rare although I am not the only one who runs it. And this is not in my clock book. Rather, it is in most of my other books on football.
The best play in football—the one that changes the win-probability the most—is the blocked scrimmage kick that ends with a scoop and score. The vast majority of coaches do not try to block kicks much because they are afraid of a penalty for running into or roughing the kicker. My answer to that is so don’t run into or rough the kicker. I say a similar thing about not bunting on third strike because if you foul it off you’re out. So don’t bunt it foul. Bunt it fair.
My teams almost always have a block on when we are on defense for fourth down. All my former players will tell you that I HATE falling on a loose ball. Pick it up and run is my mantra. If a player ever falls on a fumble in practice, I make him pick it up and run five times with everyone on the team watching.
I certainly did not invent the kick block or scoop and score, but I spend a lot of space in my book calling you an idiot for being afraid to block kicks and for falling on the ball when you block it. It’s already your ball if the kicking team did not get a first down. So what do you have to lose if the kicking team falls on it?
It’s now 38-13 in the game; 7:05 left. Subs are now in the game. Make it 45-13. I guess Buffalo put in their subs, too.
Army keeping powerful offense off the field
They put up a graphic. All but one of Army’s opponents this season have been averaging over 40 points a game, except when they played Army, at which games they were well below 40 points. The main reason is time of possession which I advocate in my clock book for teams like Army.
Whole-game slow-down would be devastating if they are not already doing it
They should be running almost a whole game slow-down once they get a lead. I did not watch to see if they were. Mainly, it means waiting until the end of the play clock to call for the snap or a time out. Not that hard to do but it can be devastating for the opponent if you can get first downs. Army can get first downs.
Great tackling and special teams
I criticized Army’s tackling and special teams a few years ago. They look great now. I still think Army cannot recruit the players they need to play pass defense. And you see it when Buffalo passes. Army is too slow. The solution is to keep the other team’s offense off the field. That means be in a whole-game slow-down and get first downs. If Army has not been in a whole-game slow-down, God help their opponents if they add that to the mix.
Even when I was coaching 8- to 10-year olds and high school, my whole-game slow-downs were epic. Do the math. In high school, you can make one possession last the entire half. That’s HALF, not quarter. In NCAA and NFL you cannot quite do that because they play 30-minute games, not 24.
One day in an 8-to-10 game, the ref told me, “I been bragging on you all week.” “Why?” “Because of that slow-down you ran last week. Your opponent only ran three plays in the second half.” “Yeah, my tail back was under the weather so I did that for him.” “High school and college teams cannot do that the way you did.” “We practice it every week in pre-season and during the season.”
In a high-school game, you could hear the fans on both sides grumbling very loudly at the delay before each play. If you huddle, the slow-down is invisible. But I never huddle. My teams hurry to the LOS and get into formation, then just stand there for about 40 seconds. It is excruciating. I have to rep in for about five plays every week to remind the players what 40 seconds feels like because otherwise they get antsy and false start.
Army captains sharp guys
They interviewed the Army QB and a LB. Both were intelligent, articulate credits to the Long Gray Line, not borderline illiterate or, it seemed, the kind of guys who need teachers to give passing grades to failing players. But they were only two of a much larger roster.
Army has now won three and lost to Duke and Oklahoma.