Report Card: Army vs. Navy

The Navy Midshipmen defeated the Army Black Knights 31-17 in college football's greatest rivalry last Saturday. The Mids overcame four turnovers and produced the longest touchdown pass and fumble return for a touchdown in the 111 year old series. Navy has now won a record nine consecutive games in the series. The loss drops the Black Knights record to 6-6 and Navy improved to 9-3.




Steelman's completed 11 of 20 passes for 128 and two touchdowns. Trent missed Army best chance for a big play in the first quarter when he badly overthrew a wide open Davyd Brooks on a post pattern. With Army down 10-0 it was a potential momentum changer and Trent simply didn't put enough air under the ball. Malcolm Brown had three catches for 59 yards and scored both Army touchdowns. The first touchdown was a nicely designed play action pass with Brown going in motion from his slotback position and slipping out behind the Mid linebackers for a five yard touchdown catch that ended the Black Knights scoring drought against Navy. Steelman hit Brown in stride over the middle as he raced 45 yards for his second touchdown catch. Davyd Brooks, two catches for 19 yards, had a rough game getting his hands on two passes only to have Navy defensive backs knock them away costing first downs. Brooks also dropped a pass on a short out route just before the end of the half. Jared Hassin had a ten yard catch for a first down that kept a drive alive and led to Army's field goal. George Jordan had three catches for 21 yards during the last five minutes. Austin Barr (13 yds) and Pat Mealy (6 yds) both caught passes on the last Army drive of the game. Army offensive coordinator Ian Shields tried to attack Navy's coverage in the second half and had some success but the Army receivers had difficulty creating consistent separation from Navy's faster defensive backs. Army receivers had trouble getting open and Steelman scrambled for positive yardage a number of times to keep drives alive. The offensive line had its worst pass blocking day of the year allowing a season high three sacks. Steelman actually rolled into the blitzing Navy linebacker on the last sack.
Army ran for 209 yards and averaged 3.9 yards a carry. The Army offensive line had trouble handling Navy's front line early as they opened the game with a lost fumble and then struggled through four consecutive three-and-out series where they gained just 26 total yards. Quarterback Trent Steelman led all rushers with 74 yards on 19 carries. Steelman's decision making was solid most of the game. Steelman's costly fumble at the goal line before the end of the half was returned by Wyatt Middleton 98 yards for a touchdown and was a devastating 14 point swing. It is the kind of disastrous negative play that has plagued Army football long before Ellerson. These types of disasters need to stop if this is going to once again become a winning program. Fullback Jared Hassin ran 15 times for 50 hard earned yards. Hassin struggled to find space inside as Navy nose guard Chase Burge out played Army center Zac Peterson. Hassin's most productive carries were on fullback option plays and veer runs. Hassin fumbled on the first Army series at midfield right after Army forced a turnover. In his best showing of the season plebe "A" back Raymond Maples ran hard, producing 66 yards on 13 carries. "C" backs Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs weren't used much in the running game with only three carries for 5 yards. Cobbs did have a key 1-yard run on a fly sweep that gave Army a first down on fourth-and-1. Pat Mealy carried four times for 14 yards. Mealy, Brown and Cobbs along with the receivers did an excellent job of blocking on perimeter in the second half to get the Black Knight ground game going after it was stuffed by the Mids early. Army's offensive line struggled early in the game as Navy raced to a 17-0 lead. For the second year in a row Navy nose guard Chase Burge outplayed Army center Zac Peterson freeing inside linebacker Tyler Simmons to make 12 tackles. Army wasn't able to block Jabaree Tuani the whole game.
Army used the same scheme as last year against Navy which was designed to stop the Mids running game. They dared Dobbs to beat them passing and he did. Donnie Dixon, who had one fumble recovery, was caught in a speed mismatch with Navy slotback John Howell and burned for a 77-yard touchdown pass on a perfect bomb from Dobbs. It wasn't poor technique by Dixon it was simply that Howell was faster and Dobbs pass was perfect. The Black Knights didn't create a lot of pressure generating only one sack. Navy QB Dobbs completed 6-of-11 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Donovan Travis broke up a long pass intended for Greg Jones in the first quarter forcing a punt. Dobbs threw a bullet perfect 32-yard strike to beat Antuan Aaron who didn't have bad coverage but was a step behind on a post pattern. Stephen Anderson did a nice job reading a screen pass to Alexander Teich on Navy's second drive forcing an incomplete pass and making the Mids settle for a field goal. Earlier in the series Army was confused by Navy's heavy formation and covered an ineligible tackle instead of slotback Aaron Santiago who caught a pass uncovered in the flat and raced 31 yards. Cornerback Richard King , who had two tackles one interception, played well. He did an excellent job on bump and run coverage against speedy Greg Jones bumping him at the line then beating him for position on his end zone interception. Cornerback Josh Jackson, three tackles, had some trouble matching up with Navy receivers at times and drew a face mask penalty.
Army did a very good job against the Navy rushing attack limiting it to just 139 yards well below their 301 yard season average. Navy had been averaging 420 yards a game the past month. Mike linebacker Stephen Anderson led the Black Knights with twelve tackles. Anderson forced a fumble, had a fumble recovery but had two costly offsides penalties both on third downs on Navy's final touchdown drive that handed the Mids first downs. Donovan Travis, 6 tackles, did a nice job running the alley and limiting Navy's slotbacks. Marcus Hilton six tackles and Jarrett Mackey six tackles both played well. Mike Gann, 2 tackles, did a good job at the point of attack but I have no idea why he jumped offsides on a fourth down play when Navy was only trying to cause an offsides. That play rarely works for the Mids but it did against Army. Down 24-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter with Navy at their own 13-yard line Army needed a stop. Instead, Navy put together an 87-yard drive that featured just one short pass that took 9:03 and ended Army hopes.
Alex Carlton hit a 42-yard field goal which was his tenth consecutive field goal. Punter Jonathan Bulls hit some ugly punts but was fairly effective as he punted five times for a 39-yard average. He hit a 56-yard punt and placed three inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Matt Campbell had to make the tackle on the game's opening kickoff . Campbell also hit a kickoff out of bounds. The kickoff return team allowed an average of 29 1/2 yards on two returns. Josh Jackson returned three kickoffs for 71 yards but fumbled the last one which Army was lucky to recover. He was replaced by Raymond Maples who returned the last two kickoffs for 46 yards.
Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland used the same scheme as last year to limit Navy's ground attack but Ricky Dobbs passing ability made them pay in coverage. Ian Shields tried to establish the ground game early but Navy dominated the line of scrimmage early. Down 17-0, the staff had the team battle back. The focus on creating turnovers and stripping the ball paid dividends as Army forced turnovers to keep themselves in the game.
Navy is faster, more athletic and has more playmakers. Army showed resiliency forcing two fumbles to get back into the game before the Middleton touchdown fumble return blew the game open. For Army to get to Navy's level they have to stop with what Rich Ellerson referred to in the post game appropriately as the "knucklehead things". Army has way too many breakdowns in their biggest games. Army still features a speed deficit at many skill positions.

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