Report Card: Army vs. Navy

For the tenth consecutive year the Navy Midshipmen defeated the Army Black Knights of football's greatest rivalry in front of a crowd of 80,789 fans at FEDEX Field in Maryland. Navy's kicker Jon Teague hit two field goals in the final quarter and the Mids' held off Army, 27-21. Army found itself down 14-0, then 21-14 but twice battled back to tie the score.

The Cadets committed three costly turnovers that directly led to 17 points for Navy. The Mids' 10-game winning streak is the longest in series history by either team. Navy now holds a 56-49-7 series lead. The Black Knights ended the season with a disappointing 3-9 record.




Quarterback Trent Steelman wasn't 100 percent coming into the game but played well. Trent had suffered ankle and knee injuries which caused him to miss most of the last six games. Steelman was able to set his feet and complete 4 of 6 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He threw the ball well and with accuracy. On his first pass attempt he was pressured quickly and wisely threw the ball away. Steelman hit Austin Barr on a ten yard hook pattern for a first down on the Black Knights last touchdown drive of the first half to tie the score. On the opening drive of the second half facing a third-and-seven he read the safety perfectly and hit C-back Malcolm Brown in stride for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Wide receiver Davyd Brooks (2 rec., 42 yards) caught passes on each of the Black Knights last two drives. I still have no idea why he failed to lateral the ball to Anthony Stephens after catching the final pass of the game. Army's offensive line allowed only one sack. I'm sure they are glad this is the last time they have to face Navy defensive end Jabaree Tuani. The Black Knights weren't able to block him the last four years.
Army was able to run the ball successfully against the Mids. They ran for 298 yards and averaged six yards per carry. The problem was, once again, in holding on to the ball. Army's running game fumbled three times and lost two. Both times the turnovers gave Navy a short field and were converted into touchdowns. Quarterback Trent Steelman wasn't in his top form but ran for 62 yards and scored on a 34 yard touchdown run.

The Black Knights opened in a power wishbone look with both B-backs Jared Hassin and Raymond Maples in the backfield. Maples ran hard for 82 yards but had a rare costly mistake when he dropped a pitch and it was recovered by Navy. Maples finished the season with 1,066 rushing yards becoming just the third sophomore in Army history to rush for one thousand yards in a single season. Larry Dixon (10 att., 65 yards) ran with his usual power and had a 31-yard run that set up a touchdown to open the second half. Malcolm Brown (11 att., 82 yards, 1 TD) was on the bench to start the game. Once in the game the team benefited from his quickness and ability to turn the corner. Jared Hassin ran four times for 7 yards and was banished to the bench after another costly fumble at midfield. Jon Crucitti replaced him in the wishbone look the rest of the game. The offensive line did a nice job but Frank Allen's cut block penalty killed a drive in the third quarter before it had the chance to get started. The interior offensive line did a nice job getting to the second level and cutting off the pursuit of Navy's inside linebackers.
Army allowed Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor to complete just one of three passes for 13 yards and sacked him twice. Linebacker Nate Combs (9 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery) played the best game of his career. He ran right through Alexander Teich's effort to block him and sacked Proctor at the end of the first half. Combs ended two series with sacks. Hayden Pierce returned to play cornerback and had good coverage on a pass attempt to Casey Bolena. Josh Jackson (two tackles) had a solid game. Thomas Holloway (4 tackles) was replaced by Tyler Dickson in the first half.
Army's defensive front did a solid job for most of the game. The Black Knights allowed 296 yards and three rushing touchdowns. They were hurt by the short field the Army offense allowed with their three turnovers. Captain Steve Erzinger (11 tackles) had a key forced fumble to stop a drive. Tyler Dickson saw his most action in weeks as he made 10 tackles and forced a fumble. Holt Zalneraitis (7 tackles) played well against the Navy option like he did against Air Force. He had a big stop on Kriss Procter, forcing a punt. Jacob Drozd (6 tackles) forced a fumble and had a nice first half defending the option.

Geoffrey Bacon made six tackles and recovered a fumble. He did a nice job running down plays that went wide but was knocked off the ball at times by Navy's big interior linemen. Kyler Martin started at strong safety for the third straight game and made four tackles. He had a chance for a big return but he failed to scoop up Kriss Proctor's fumble on the opening drive and Nate Combs recovered it.
Chris Boldt didn't punt the ball well and averaged 32.7 yards on his three punts. Boldt placed two punts inside the 20-yard line. The Black Knights coverage team which had been excellent all year allowed two long kickoff returns. Alexander Teich's 48-yard kickoff return to open the second half sparked a Navy touchdown drive. Long snapper Frank Ceva had a huge hit on punt coverage. Holder Kolin Walk did a nice job setting up two high extra point snaps. Punt returner Josh Jackson let too many punts hit the ground costing valuable field position. Kick returner Scott Williams (6 KOR, 106 yards) won the job because he has good hands and is reliable. Williams isn't fast enough to be a big return guy but he did the best of all the Army returners this year (20.6 KOR avg.). His fumble on a kickoff that was recovered by Navy and the resulting field goal changed the complexion of the game. It also defeated the purpose of his being in the game. As the field camera illustrated the wedge offered him no lanes to run in on almost all his returns.
Rich Ellerson's team had a chance this year but in falling short extended his winless record against the other service academies to six losses in a row. The team looked well prepared but the inability to simply hold on to the football cost 17 points. The team had practiced extensively on ball security in the weeks leading up to the game. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields was criticized by some but in reviewing the tape I think he called a solid game. For the second time in two years he came into the game with a new wrinkle using a power wishbone lineup featuring both fullbacks. It wasn't effective and it kept one of Army's most effective running backs, Malcolm Brown, out of the game early. Shields tried to fool Navy when he used Brown in the half-bone formation. Normally he calls a fly sweep with Brown in the game. He had Steelman try a naked bootleg twice but both times Navy read it and made tackles for negative plays. I believe he could have tried a few more pass plays against a Navy secondary that started two plebes and was allowing more than 74 percent of the passes against them to be completed. I assume with the running backs averaging six yards a carry and Army unable to pass block Tuani he decided to keep the ball on the ground. I didn't like the fourth-and-7 run call. I would have either kicked the field goal or tried to pass there. Defensive coordinators Chris Smeland and Payam Saadat used the same alignment and game plan they used against Air Force and it was effective. Navy was not going to run a play on that fourth-and-one. They have always tried to draw opponents offside in similar situations in the past. Coach Saadat should have emphasized that to the team.
The Black Knights are improving but lack the ability to finish. They tend to implode in key spots. They outplayed Navy in the first half but had to rally just to tie the score before halftime. It was another disappointing loss in a disappointing season.

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