Report Card: Army vs. Rutgers

An injury depleted Army Black Knights team gamely battled the Rutgers Scarlet Knights deep into the fourth quarter. It took a late blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Rutgers, followed by a touchdown run for the Scarlet Knights to defeat the Black Knights 27-12.




The punt block was a huge game-changing event. Army appeared poised to take the lead just moments before when freshman running back Stephen Fraser took an option pitch and raced down the sideline for a 52-yard gain to the Rutgers' 1-yard line. That play was wiped out by a tripping penalty called on left guard Frank Allen. After a pair of incomplete passes, Chris Bolt's ensuing punt was blocked and returned 32 yards by Rutgers for a touchdown. The loss ends Army's hopes of becoming bowl eligible for the second consecutive year. The Black Knights record is now 3-7.

Plebe quarterback Angel Santiago completed 6 of 15 passes for 77 yards. Santiago completed a short six yard pass to Davyd Brooks on his first attempt during Army's second drive that produced a field goal. The following series Santiago threw a 13-yard completion to Malcolm Brown, followed by a 23-yard completion to Davyd Brooks to convert consecutive third downs. Brooks caught three passes for 35 yards. Angel threw his best pass of the game when he completed a 17-yard rope to Brown (2 rec., 30 yards) to convert a thirrd-and-7 situation for a first down to set up Army's final touchdown. Early in the fourth quarter, Santiago overthrew an open Malcolm Brown from his own end zone and it cost Army a first down. Austin Barr caught one pass for 12 yards. Santiago made a number of throws that gave Army receivers a chance to make a play on the ball while avoiding having any passes picked off by a Rutgers ball-hawking secondary that is one of the best in the nation Army's receivers lacked the speed or explosiveness to create separation from Rutgers much faster secondary. Army's offensive line allowed only one sack to a Scarlet Knights defensive line that entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in sacks with 29. Army's offensive line usually gave Santiago time when he attempted to pass.
Army rushed for a season low 228 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Quarterback Angel Santiago played well in his first start against a Rutgers defense that entered the game ranked 21st in the nation. The Scarlet Knights know how to defend the option. They are now 10-2 in their last twelve games against option teams. Rutgers tries to take away the pitch back and force the game between the tackles. In charting Santiago option reads he made the correct decision 82% of the time according to my chart. Santiago was able to use his quickness to break free only a few times for good gains. He ran 30 times for 72 yards and looked to be a little gimpy by the end of the game after getting pounded by Rutgers fast and physical front. Santiago probably would have scored on the opening drive but the lousy turf footing caused him to slip. Larry Dixon (9 att., 93 yards, 1 TD) burst free on Army's opening drive after running through a tackle for a 55-yard gain to set up a field goal. Jared Hassin ran hard for 27 yards on five carries. Malcolm Brown (7 att., 23 yards) didn't find a lot of running room. Plebe Stephen Fraser (3 att., 13 yards) saw 42 yards of his 52 yard run off an option pitch wiped out by a Frank Allen tripping penalty. Allen claimed it was accidental in the post-game and it probably was but it looked like an old-fashioned leg whip and by rule it was a legit penalty.
Army defense did a solid job against the Rutgers passing attack. Dodd completed 17 of 27 passes for 196 yards throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. Army's defensive front was at a disadvantage playing on the Yankee Stadium poorly laid field turf that was soft and came up in divots when players pushed off. Army defensive line relies on quickness and the turf hurt their pass rush. Jacob Drozd recorded a sack when Dodd was pressured by Zac Watts (1 tackle) and he tried to scramble. Cornerback Josh Jackson had a horrible day in coverage. He was beat for both touchdown passes. Jackson (5 tackles) was overmatched trying to cover Rutgers star wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Sanu had 13 catches for 129 yards. Sanu was matched up a number of times one on one in the flat with Jackson and Josh was faked out of his shoes. Jackson was late picking up fullback Michael Burton on a 3-yard touchdown pass when Army was in its goal line defense. Jackson sat in his stance on a flag route and was badly beaten by Brandon Coleman for a 38-yard touchdown pass. Free safety Thomas Holloway (14 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass def.) had the best game of his career. When Watts and Erzinger pressured Dobbs, Holloway smartly jumped a route and picked off a pass returning it 19 yards which set up Army's final touchdown. Kyler Martin started at strong safety for the second straight game and played well. Martin posted six tackles and intercepted a pass. Freshman Lamar Johnson-Harris (3 tackles) competed against Rutgers much larger receivers. LJ refused to allow the big Rutgers receivers dominate him like they did Army's cornerbacks last season. Johnson-Harris was able to get away with a push against Coleman. He forced him to land out of bounds denying Rutgers a touchdown and any points on a drive, when the ensuing field goal attempt was missed. Nate Combs (1 tackle) knocked down a pass to force a punt.
Army held Rutgers to just 62 yards on 25 carries until Jawan Jameson broke a 56-yard touchdown run with under two minutes left in the game. Geoffrey Bacon made 7 tackles and showed his range in pass coverage as well. Steve Erzinger (6 tackles) was the Black Knight's most physical player. Defensive end Andrew Rodriguez (5 tackles) played well but made a mistake when he pinched too hard trying to tackle Jameson to force a punt on the last series only to see him take the ball outside and race 56 yards for the game clinching touchdown. Defensive tackle A.J. Mackey (3 tackles) played well at the point of attack most of the game.
Chris Boldt averaged 39.2 yards on his four punts. Boldt never saw Rutgers' Wayne Warren come clean and block his punt in the fourth quarter which was returned for a touchdown. Long snapper Frank Ceva never attempted to block Warren. Kicker Alex Carlton hit two short field goals but shanked a costly extra point. Carlton took the momentum away from the team there. Eric Osteen was instructed to kick short a few times to limit Rutgers return game. Josh Jackson returned a punt for 14 yards. Scott Williams averaged 25.3 yards per kickoff return. Williams returned the opening kickoff 36 yards and it probably could have been a touchdown if he had more speed. Kickoff coverage was below average for Army with Rutgers Jeremy Deering having two returns over 31 yards.
It was a solid performance especially when you consider Army was starting a freshman quarterback, behind a freshman center and handing off to a freshman fullback. Give Ellerson the credit for starting Santiago which gave Army the best chance to compete. Once again the team was prepared and played well but Rutgers size and athleticism won the day. I agreed with Ellerson kicking the field goals near the goal line in the first quarter. The turf was a mess and the footing was difficult near that goal line. I thought offensive coordinator Ian Shields called a good game and gave Santiago a chance to succeed. I've seen criticism about the lack of pitches but Rutgers defense is designed to play the option outside in. Santiago did a nice job reading his pitch keys. Rutgers had a similar outcome against Navy this year. They allowed only two offensive touchdowns and just 13 carries by the slotbacks. Army had just 10 carries by their A and C backs. You can't pitch the ball if the pitch back is covered. For the third straight game Army's defense did a nice job against the run after being run over most of the season. Coach Smeland and Saadat deserve a ton of credit for how they continue to coach up their young unit. Coach Saadat's fiery presence on the sidelines keeps his charges in the game. For the second consecutive week a special team breakdown hurt the team. Alex Carlton has struggled this year.
The Black Knights entered this game against a quality opponent without many key starters. They competed until the end and had a chance to win until late in the fourth quarter. It was a very good effort with team grade deservedly higher than this week's unit breakdowns.

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