Army Report Card: Navy
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Army Report Card: Navy

Fourteen yards away. That's how close Army was to ending Navy's decade of dominance over them. In what was a microcosm of Army's struggles this year, quarterback Trent Steelman and Larry Dixon botched a hand off on the mesh and Navy's Barry Dabney recovered. Navy prevailed for the eleventh consecutive year defeating the Army Black Knights in the 113th meeting in football's greatest rivalry.

Navy's plebe quarterback Keenan Reynolds made plays with his legs and his arm on the final drive as he ran for an eight-yard touchdown to give the Midshipmen a 17-13 victory over Army. The Mids' 11-game winning streak is the longest in series history by either team. Navy now holds a 57-49-7 series lead. The Black Knights ended the season with a disappointing 2-10 record.

PASSING OFFENSE: B
Quarterback Trent Steelman completed 4 of 5 passes for 48 yards. He threw the ball well and with accuracy. On his first pass attempt he connected with Raymond Maples for a six yard gain but Maples fumbled and lost the ball. It ending a promising drive and set up Navy's first touchdown. Steelman hit Chevaughn Lawrence (3 rec, 44 yards) on a 19 yard out pattern to set up the game tying field goal before the end of the first half. On a third-and-6 play during the first drive of the second half Steelman was sacked by Keegan Wetzel for an eight yard loss. Maples was knocked aside by Wetzel attempting to pick up the blitz. On third-and-5 late in the third period Steelman hit Patrick Laird in the chest with a pass that would have produced a first down but Laird dropped it. Even though he was hit by Bush on the play he has to make that catch. On the final drive Steelman and Lawrence teamed up for consecutive completions for first downs. After the first catch Lawrence was somehow tackled by Navy's crawling cornerback Kwazel Bertrand who had fallen down costing an additional ten yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B
Army was able to run the ball successfully against the Mids. They ran for 370 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. The problem was, once again, in holding on to the ball. Army's runners fumbled three times and lost one that ended the game. Quarterback Trent Steelman ran for 96 yards and scored on an 11-yard touchdown run.

Raymond Maples ran hard for 156 yards on 27 carries. Maples was lucky his first half fumble deep in Army territory was recovered by Patrick Laird. Larry Dixon (16 rushes, 61 yards) didn't find a lot of running room inside and fumbled the mesh handoff with Steelman that cost the game. Malcolm Brown (7 rushes, 57 yards) made a number of nice runs on reverse option pitches. Brown made a huge mistake on the third-and-1 play in the third quarter. The game announcers said he didn't know the play. I think Brown just froze when left tackle Zach Reichert moved early and the referee missed it. Maples was tackled for a loss forcing a field goal.

The offensive line did a nice job getting to the second level and cutting off the pursuit of Navy's inside linebackers. Ryan Powis and Stephen Shumacher had some trouble early against Navy's quick nose guard Dan Ring but the line opened holes all day. However the offense only finished one drive with a touchdown which was frustrating.

PASSING DEFENSE: C+
Army saw Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds completed 10 of 17 passes for 130 yards. The Black Knights coverage was solid. Alex Meier (10 tackles, 1 fumble rec.) played a great game until he was injured. Meier came across the formation to break up a sure touchdown pass to Darius Staten but somehow didn't get credit for a pass defensed on that stat sheet. Geoffery Bacon (14 tackles, 1 sack) played a huge game and ended a drive with Army's only sack. Cornerback Chris Carnegie (2 tackles) was beat deep by Brandon Turner for 49 yards to set up the game winning touchdown but didn't have bad coverage on the play. Zach Watts (2 tackles) was able to pressure the quarterback a few times but Reynolds used his quick feet to avoid him and break containment. The one time Watts was able to keep containment Bacon recorded the sack. Hayden Pierce (2 tackles) returned at SAM safety and looked a little rusty after his long injury layoff. Pierce took to sharp an angle when rushing Reynolds and lost outside leverage as Reynolds ran for a key first down on the game winning touchdown drive. Thomas Holloway (2 tackles) replaced the injured Meier and tackled Turner short of the goal line after his long reception. Army's pass defense did a solid job with Navy's receivers making some tough catches. The inability to contain Reynolds scrambling hurt Army.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A
Army's defense did an excellent job employing 3-3-5 and 5-2 looks. The Black Knights allowed just 167 rushing yards and only one rushing touchdown. Nate Combs forced (8 tackles, FF, pass def.) forced a fumble that Brandon Fusiler-Jeffires (5 tackles) just missed recovering. Defensive end James Kelly played the best game of his career. Kelly had seven tackles, one of a loss, and a forced fumble that was recovered by Meier. On the inside defensive tackles Richard Glover (5 tackles) and Bobby Kough (4 tackles) rebound to play well against much bigger Navy guards. The longest run they allowed the fullback was Noah Copeland's 12-yard touchdown run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Chris Boldt didn't punt the ball well and averaged 36.7 yards on his three punts. Boldt's lackluster day kept Army on the losing end of the field position battle. Eric Osteen hit two of three field goal attempts. Boldt was the holder and did a great job getting down. Frank Ceva's snaps who were off target on each field goal attempt. Osteen has two touchbacks on his kickoffs. Julian Crockett returned four kickoffs just 65 yards. He averted disaster when on the final kickoff return he initially misplayed the low line drive and did a nice job making the first wave miss in getting back to the 17 yard line. Punt returner Josh Jackson returned two punts for 14 yards but had fumbled at the end of one return costing valuable field position. Brandon Fusiler-Jeffires and Justin Trimble hammered Ryan Williams on Navy's only kickoff return.

COACHING: B
Rich Ellerson's team had a chance once again this year but lost his fourth game against Navy. The team's scheme was well prepared but basic attention to detail was missing. The team chronic inability to hold onto the ball over the last two years cost the team again. Army fumbled five times and lost three. On the opening series the defensive line lined up twice in the neutral zone. Army's offensive line was called for only one false start but jumped three other times.

Offensive coordinator Ian Shields was criticized again by some but his offense did put up 418 yards. I think he called a solid game but at times was too conservative. Steelman had thrown the ball well against Navy the last three years completing 61 percent of his passes with three scores and no interceptions. The problem is Army's wide receivers are good blockers but below average as receivers. Chevaughn Lawrence is the only receiver who can get open and none of the receivers have consistent hands. Laird's third down drop was huge and killed a drive. I understand the frustration on the second-and-2 play from the 3-yard line but I didn't have a problem with the calls. Steelman gained one yard on a quarterback sneak leaving third-and-one. On the third down play left tackle Zach Reichert moved early but it wasn't called by the referees. Brown stopped in the backfield and didn't block even though the whistle didn't sound and Maples was dropped for a two yard loss forcing a field goal. You can criticize the execution but there was nothing wrong with the call. Color man Gary Danielson questioned the third-and-7 fourth quarter run out of a passing formation look. I agree I would have tried to pass in that spot but it was an interesting look for the quick counter that had worked all day.

Defensive coordinators Chris Smeland and Payam Saadat used the same alignment and game plan they used against Air Force and it was effective. Army used a 3-3-5 and 5-2 looks to take away the pitch backs. It was well designed and well executed.

OVERALL GRADE: B
The Black Knights simply lack the ability to finish. They play hard but tend to implode in key spots. They outplayed Navy for the second year in a row but lost the game. Every Army fan felt Trent Steelman's pain after this bitter loss.