As much as this week's focus is the upcoming game against a very solid opponent in Kent State, Head Coach Rich Ellerson's also discussed at his weekly press conference the team's 42-22 loss against Air Force, the mindset of his team, along with the status of some his players, like defensive end Josh McNary who missed the bulk of last Saturday's game.
"Kent State is a great challenge and they play as good of defense as anybody in the country right now
they are 18th in the country in defense, which is where we make 90% of our money," says the very forthright head coach.
"Offensively they are opportunistic and special teams they play good field position and have created points - they are very aggressive and do some creative things.
Every phase of the game they are a challenge and we're at their place.
So we've got our work cut out for us
. We got some challenges, and we have to snap out of it here and play better. We can start that by practicing better and coaching better and that puts a lot of pressure on us this afternoon."
The Kent State run defense will be a challenge on Saturday, but as was the case with Army when faced a Rutgers' team that was ranked number 10 in the nation in overall defense, the Army mentor made it clear that the team's offensive philosophy will remain constant.
"You have to run your offense
we have the ability to throw the ball, but we are doing to run our offense," he says, who also emphasized the important of being assignment focused. "Frankly, that's the frustration
. At this point of the season, there are no freshmen or sophomores out there
our level of precision should be as good as it's been since I've been here and frankly it's just not.
We have to get that exactly right. Weather that be guys pressing or being too casual in our preparation
we just aren't as detailed as we need to be. It is hard to make yards, but we aren't going make yards by drawing new plays in the dirt, we are going to have to go out there and run our offense."
We can be productive and that doesn't mean we are going to run them out the stadium or anything like that
nobody has. They play well on defense every week, but we can earn because we can play too. It's going to be hard, but we have to execute and we have to be precise.
Over the past four games, fullback Jared Hassin has for over 100 yards in each of those games, which set an Army record. But has the offense become less diverse and more predictable?
"We run option plays," asserts Ellerson. "Whoever is free you are going to give them the ball. If that is where the numbers are, that's what you are going to do. If you are trying to force the ball on perimeter against a team like Kent State, as aggressive as they are on the perimeter
good luck, people they run a lot better than we do have had a hard time doing it. We have to make them defend the whole offense, not just one phase of it.
If it's supposed to go inside then it should go inside and it needs to be productive."
We need to practice well and we need to prepare well ... Saturday will take care of itself if we do a good job in preparation..
- Head Coach, Rich Ellerson
"We need to practice well and we need to prepare well," Ellerson states, as one of the needed remedies to the recent ills of the team. "Saturday will take care of itself if we do a good job in preparation.
If we aren't happy with the way we have played and we aren't. We are lacking in consistency and lack of precision
the fact is that we didn't get it done."
Addressing the team's Disposition
After the loss to Air Force, some players have indicated that they will be "pissed off" when they face Kent State on Saturday, to which Ellerson offered this reply.
"We can use that (anger), but we use it in practice, in meeting and use to get that sense of intensity and urgency in practice environment so the you can realistically expect something to be different on Saturday," he said. "If it's not different today in practice, you can't realistically expect it to be different on Saturday.
If we have a chip on our shoulder, the time to bring it is today
don't wait until Saturday."
Knowing that minus their recent blunder on Saturday, every win and loss could have gone either way and that at this point in the season, it is time to regroup and redefine in order to get back on track
especially if this team expects to be bowl eligible, along with taking care of business against Kent State, Notre Dame and Navy.
"We haven't played well and I'm not exactly sure where we are," voice Ellerson. "But I know we need to snap out of it and play better. Everybody we have played is capable of beating us, but in the same breath, we are capable of beating them and this week is another example of that.
It's going to be hard fought (Kent State game). But if we go out there and we're well prepared, and execute and do the things to win, we will have a great chance, but if we don't, we have no chance."
Case in point is Hassin, who currently is 39th in the nation in rushing with 783 yards. "Hassin has been productive, but at the same time, we have to be consistently good," claims Ellerson.
"There are some things about the precision of a play (running the option)
those things we need to be able to do in our sleep without the ball being on the ground, ever."
Taking it another step further, Ellerson adds sternly. "But if every 5th or 6th time we try to do that stuff and we are stumbling and fumbling, we have no chance. All that is yards for the box score and it will not show up on the scoreboard. We have to have that precision and we have to double up on now."
As Hassin's numbers have ascended, there seems to be a lack of a perimeter presence, especially with Malcolm Brown's absence, to which Ellerson responded.
"We miss Malcolm, but frankly no, it hasn't changed our style of play
the success of that Malcolm and Brian (Cobbs) have had in different games have forced other folks hands in how they have defended. They're doing a better job out there, but it's created other opportunities for us."
Although the team has engaged in and experienced three very close games (Hawaii, Temple and Rutgers) that resulted in loses they have seemed to rebound well. However, losing to rival Air Force and the manner in which the team was defeated bares the question in how the team will rebound this weekend.
GoBlackKnights.com asked Ellerson that very question. Knowing your team, how did this lost against Air Force compare relative to those other close games and what is the emotional impact on the team?
"I suspect that it's a little different. Frankly we played better in those tough hard fought games," says Ellerson, suggesting that the Air Force contest was not as hard fought by the Black Knights as the team is accustomed to playing.
"If we play like we are capable, that Air Force game is going to go one way or the other, but it's going to turn on a dime ... it's going to be a sharp ticking point there at the end. That's what we were working towards.
We were getting the best of a lot things out there physically and I don't mean to say that it comes down to 2-3 plays, Air Force was winning more than their share of the physical match-ups out there, they did an outstanding job. Having said that, if we do the things that win
don't let the ball go over our head, if we don't fall down and if don't turn the ball over we got a chance to drag those guys kicking and screaming into a situation where we have a chance maybe to kick a field goal on the last play or what have you.
So coming out this I feel differently, I think we all feel differently
I hope we all feel differently, we will hear about it today in practice. Because there's an old adage is that the best team that doesn't win, but the team that plays the best wins."
Against Air Force, safety Jordan Trimble stepped in for Antuan Aaron opposite Josh Jackson at corner.
So should the fans expect to see Richard King back in the starting spot against Kent State and what is the status with Aaron's knee?
"Antuan continues to be day to day, he was not available last week," shares the head coach. "Richard will play a much larger role in the style of play that we will see this week. That was a calculated decision that Jordan with some of what we were going to be doing out there and the nature of Air Force's attack
that gave the best chance to get things accounted for
As Ellerson has mentioned recently, that with nine games under their belts, the youth of this team are no longer freshmen and sophomores. However, there are those that continue to show progression within the system and Ellerson shared his thoughts when specially asked about A.J. Mackey and Zach Watts.
"The style of the opponent a week ago and their attributes we thought it gave us the best chance to match up and defend that style of offense," declared Ellerson.
"Both those guys are contributing and getting use to being out there between the white lines.
Zach is going to continue to play huge role on the defense and the kicking game
and A.J. will play opportunistically."
The most notable and significant personnel concern surrounding players status is that of all everything defensive end, Josh McNary. McNary had suffered through a hamstring injury during last week's practice and aggravated it on the first series against Air Force. Like Aaron, McNary's status and game time possibility will be day-to-day.
Don't think that Ellerson was not disappointed about Saturday's loss. It stung. But he and his staff were able to watch the entire game film since Saturday without pulling the plug and by his own admission, saw some positives. It will take those positives, regroup by this team and the staff to come out on Saturday and get back on track
they have to.
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