September 18, 2011

The Linebacker Crew - Overcoming the Giants

How do you beat a giant? That was the question tasked to the Army defense this week against undefeated Big Ten opponent Northwestern and their massive offensive line.

With an average weight of 300 plus pounds the Wildcats' offensive line looked like a brick wall that the undersized Army defense would have a tough time breaking through.

The first half of the game had me questioning my loyalty {just kidding}. Army wasn't playing bad by any means; they were playing sound, fundamental football but were severely lacking the ability to apply any pressure to the quarterback.

As much as the Army offense was the defenses' best player, virtually keeping the Northwestern offense off the field for majority of the half, where the Black Knights' time of possession was an impressive 18:53. As such, it appeared that lack of field time prevented the frustrated Wildcats from finding a rhythm, which greatly played to our defense's advantage.

It seemed like it was going to be only a matter of time before this Big Ten offense was going to wake up and start playing some football.

However, as the second half rolled around, I found that I had greatly underestimated the Army defense and their brilliant strategy. The Black Knights' swarming defense knew they weren't going to outmuscle Northwestern, but they could out work them ... and that is exactly what they did. Just like a boxer works the body to wear down his opponent, the Army D-line wore down their Midwest visitors with their fast hands and quick feet, always on the move and never stopping, not to mention that it was not unusual to see 5-6 guys around the football.

The intensity that I was witnessing in the 2nd half was insane. The Army "D" was playing like a bunch of brawlers ready to defend their home field at all costs. As I was watching the defense I finally saw something that every Black Knight faithful was waiting to see…the Black Knights were tired of losing and somewhere along the way, remembered how to win.

Pressure was being applied on Northwestern and you could tell that their boys were getting tired and frustrated.

The Backers

Blitz after blitz ... sideline to sideline from linebackers Steven Erzinger(9 tackles), Andrew Rodriguez (6 tackles), and Justin Trimble(6 tackles) were making their presence known in the Wildcats backfield. It was this tenacity in those defensive trenches that solidified Army's fantastic 21-14 victory on Saturday.

The "D" did give up some big plays but that's easily forgivable when it's the "defense" that shuts down Northwestern's final drive with such confidence and intensity that we better start getting use to. Prepare to see this defense get better and better as the season goes on, as they separate themselves from the 2011 defensive accomplishment and develop their own identity.

Army Football is officially back and, let me tell you, it feels good to be a fan.

The final score, Army 21 - Northwestern 14.

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