September 6, 2009

Army's defense: Controlled Chaos

Eastern Michigan may wonder if an offensive line featuring four new starters was to blame for the effectiveness of Army's swarming defensive and being a nightmare all evening for quarterback Andy Schmitt. But if you were to ask Defensive Coordinator Payam Saadat, who during preseason camp, called the Black Knights style of play on defense as, "organize chaos, but hopefully its absolute chaos for our opponent.".

This is what Coach Ellerson hopes the Army defense is all about on a weekly basis.

And so it was chaos, not only for Schmitt, but also for the EM running game, especially during the first half of the game.

Defensive Highlights

On Eastern Michigan's first series of the game, Josh McNary was responsible for being on all three tackles, forcing Eastern Michigan to go three and out and leading to the first of four punts on the day by the Eagles. McNary's play was contagious and set the tone for the game or at least for the Army defense.

Following McNary's lead was sophomore linebacker, Andrew Rodriguez, who receiving his first collegiate start. A-Rod as he is called by teammates, finished the game with seven tackles (4 solo & 3 assist), tied with Donovan Travis and both players only two short of McNary's game high nine tackles.

What was really impressive about the Army defense, was their ability to come out of the gate very aggressive as a "unit", being in attack mode no matter what the game situation was, also that everyone was on or around the ball and the timeliness of making the needed plays.

Although there was a slight 3rd quarter lapse in the aforementioned attributes, the unit was able to catch its second wind and lock down the Eastern Michigan offense for the balance of the game.

With a 2nd & 5 from the 20 yard line of Eastern Michigan and with 3:48 to go in the 1st quarter, the McNary & Rodriguez show continued as that sacked Schmitt and on
3rd & 10 ... you guessed it, Schmitt was sacked once again by McNary & Rodriguez.

At the start of the 2nd quarter and on 1st down at Eastern Michigan 25 yard line, junior defensive tackle Mike Gann jumps offside and the ? has the ball 1st & 5, but once again Andrew Rodriguez answers the call and blast in for a one yard lost. With an eventual 3rd down & 5 at midfield, you could take your pick which Army defender was on the sack and once again, Eastern Michigan was forced to punt.

During the 2nd quarter with Eastern Michigan facing a 3rd and 17 and 4:11 remaining until halftime, defensive tackle Victor Ugenyi on the sack and third for Army

By halftime, Army had sacked Schmidt 3 times on just 6 pass attempts and has not allowed Eastern Michigan to cross the 50 yard line in the first half.

As the 3rd quarter started, it would be up to the Eagles' staff to make some the appropriate half time adjustments, because it was apparent that the defensive twist by the Black Knights really confused the Eastern Michigan's offensive line.

With Army receiving the kick to open the second half, the Black Knights were three and out and were forced to punt from the 35 yard line and a 38 yard punt, coupled with a seven yard return to Eastern Michigan's own 35 gave the Eagles some breathing room.

During these series, the Black Knights' defense fortitude is tested. However, despite McNary making a tackle for a two yard lost on a 2nd and 1, Eastern Michigan begins to put pressure on the Army defense that looks a little winded.

On 1st & 10, senior cornerback Mario Hill drops a sure interception, but is called for holding, which gives the Eagles the ball, 1st & 10 on the Army 42. Running back Dwayne Priest runs off tackle for 35 yards to the Army 15 yard line

After a couple of plays, it is now 3rd and goal at the five yard line and the Black Knights dig in, with an attempt of holding Eastern Michigan to a minimum of three points. On the next play, the Eagles are stopped for no gain by Rodriguez.

So on 4th down, the Eagles Joe Carithers misses a 21 yard field goal attempt as Army holds with 9:17 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Now with 6:40 left in the 3rd quarter, the Army defensive has shut down the Schmitt - Stone combination and Schmitt is a mere 6 for 11 for 54 yards.

4th Quarter

As the 3rd Quarter ended and although Eastern Michigan added 14 points to the score board in the 4th quarter … and the final quarter was a reflection of the first three. By now, Schmitt had become all to familiar with Victor Ugenyi and Rodriguez and McNary who consistently pressured the Eagles' quarters and Ugenyi and McNary double-teamed him for a six yard sack as time was running out for the host.

Not to be out done by his seasoned teammates, freshman cornerback Josh Jackson made his first colligate interception and showed off his athletic skills by returning it from the Army 40 yard line to the Eagles' 25.

Joining Jackson in the INT catergory was safety Donovan Travis, who returned his thief for 55 yards.

On the day, the swarming Army defense registered six sacks for a lost of fifty-one yards and added constant pressure on quarterback Andy Schmitt.

The Black Knights as a unit were diversely active and the stats sheet reflects just that.

Others who were very active included sophomore linebacker Steve Erzinger, rover Donnie Dixon, cornerbacks Antuan Aaron, and Mario Hill, and all players registered 5 tackles apiece. Although their numbers were earthshaking, starting defensive tackle Mike Gann and backup tackle Chris Swain were active throughout the contest.

One player who did not have his named called as much as Army fans are accustomed to is linebacker Stephen Anderson. Although he was productive by normal standards that saw him register a quiet 7 tackles and one pass breakup … what appeared to be missing was one or two of Anderson's jarring tackles.

Part of that had to do with the overall performance of his teammates and once the junior backer becomes more comfortable with his role within the Flex defense, noting that he missed the entire spring practice session … he will add another dimension to this swarming defense.

Both McNary and Ugenyi finished the evening with 2.5 sacks apiece, making for a day of organized chaos and a big factor in Army's season opening victory.

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