Army Report Card: Wake Forest

Wake Forest defeated the Army Black Knights 49-37 in front of a crowd of 30,207 fans Saturday afternoon. The trend of the 2012 season continued with Army's offense moving the ball and rushing for 429 yards but being totally offset by its struggling defense that allowed seven touchdowns. The Black Knights have lost seven straight games overall dating back to last season.

PASSING OFFENSE B
Trent Steelman threw the ball very well in his few attempts against Wake Forest. Steelman has completed 3 of 4 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Opening drive Trent hit Chevaughn Lawrence in stride for 45 yards that set up a touchdown. On the final drive of the first half Steelman threw an incomplete pass to Chevaughn Lawrence which just missed. Lawrence may have lost the ball looking back directly in the sun. Steelman's final two throws were on the same drive in the third quarter. He threw a nice 19 yard pass down left sideline to Malcolm Brown. On third-and-12, Trent hit Maples on a wheel route with a clutch throw. Maples made a one hand catch for a 13-yard touchdown. This grade would have been an "A" but Angel Santiago threw two incompletions on Army's last possession. Angel threw both passes poorly. The pass protection on the offensive line was excellent.

RUSHING OFFENSE A The Black Knights rushed for 429 yards, averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored four rushing touchdowns. Trent Steelman did a terrific job reading the Wake Forest defense. Steelman carried the ball 22 times for 82 yards and scored three touchdowns. Larry Dixon (21 carries for 112 yards, 1 TD) moved the pile all game long. He scored his touchdown on Army's second possession. On that drive Larry initially broke two tackles and picked up 28 yards. He finished the touchdown drive by running through three tackles to score on a 12-yard touchdown run. A -back Raymond Maples was explosive at times as he rushed for 140 yards on 15 carries. However, on the opening possession of second half Raymond dropped a perfect pitch from Trent Steelman and failed to recover the fumble. It set up an easy touchdown for the Demon Deacons and gave Wake Forest a 35-23 lead they never relinquished.

Malcolm Brown (12 carries for 79 yards) returned to C back from wide receiver and looked good. Brown replaced Terry Baggett who fractured his kneecap against NIU. Malcolm ran well and was very effective blocking on the perimeter. Steelman's rib injury may have cost Army the chance for a win. Angel Santiago (5 att.,10 yards) was indecisive and made some poor decisions at quarterback after he replaced the injured Steelman. On second-and-7 at the Wake Forest 35 he inexplicable halted and looked to pitch it even though he had the alley to gain at least a five yards himself. He was tackled for a loss and the team ended up turning over the ball on downs. With Steelman and center Ryan Powis (groin) out with injuries late in the game the Black Knights under Santiago produced just 19 yards on two series. After the way Santiago's struggled If Steelman is unable to play against Stony Brook you have to wonder if the staff looks at plebe quarterback A.J. Schurr to start the game.

PASSING DEFENSE D
Wake Forest completed 15 of 24 passes for 221 and two touchdowns. Army was only able to create any consistent pressure by blitzing and recorded just one sack. On Wake Forest's opening drive plebe free safety Brandon Fusilier Jeffires failed to cover his deep middle responsibility and let Brandon Terry get behind him for a 47-yard gain. Often injured sophomore corner back Marques Avery (1 tackle) played his first meaningful game in two years and the rust showed. Avery demonstrated good speed in coverage but missed a number of tackles. On Wake Forest second touchdowns Campanaro turned a screen pass into a 41-yard touchdown after Avery took a poor angle and missed the tackle. Plebe Cornerback Chris Carnegie made his first career start. Carnegie (3 tackles) looked to have made an interception but was overruled by the replay official that he dropped the ball before he hit the ground. It was costly mistake as Waverly Washington, starting at cornerback in the place of an injured Josh Jackson, was beat on a seven yard fade route for a touchdown. Washington (3 tackles) had decent coverage but it was perfect throw by Wake Forest QB Tanner Price. Most of the Demon Deacons passing success came on bubble screens where the Black Knight cornerbacks had trouble getting off blocks to make the initial tackle. Army had some coverage errors and missed tackles because of mistakes by inexperienced players. However, in looking at pass coverage this group did a better job matching up speed wise than last week's starters did against Northern Illinois. The Demon Deacons completed only one long pass over the Black Knights defensive backs heads which was an improvement. Joe Drummond and Colin Linkul teamed up for Army's only sack which forced a punt.

RUSHING DEFENSE F
The Black Knights run defense was pathetic. You can see it with the production or lack of it upfront with two starters making no tackles. Jarrett Mackey's return to quick end was a dud and he provided no tackles. Bobby Kough was also shutout. Defensive end Holt Zalneraitis had just one assist. Army's front line plays too high, gets virtually no penetration which the system is built upon and can't get off blocks.

The lack of size is often cited as a problem which is legit but the main issue over the last two years is the lack of a true nose guard since Mike Gann graduated. In the double eagle flex the nose guard in supposed to play two gap and be responsible for both A gaps to each side of the center. This is key since the Mike linebacker is supposed to run inside out with the nose guard allowing him to run free. This hasn't happened much since Gann graduated. Often the defensive tackles are playing over the guards because they can't hold the point of attack against the center. To make matters worse the tackles are losing the one-on-one battles badly. Geoff Bacon (11 tackles), the Mike linebacker, often has to fight off blocks or run around linemen at the second level that are in his face or on his legs much too easily. Bacon is one of Army's best defenders. I've seen too many claim he's too small for the job. I totally disagree despite the fact he does miss some tackles. The issue is the defensive tackles in front of him are failing to do their jobs. An example of this was Josh Harris's 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter when the Demon Deacons knocked Army's defensive line off the ball and the offensive line was able to seal block Bacon for a huge hole. With freshman Chris Carnegie taking too shallow an angle running across the field against the speedy Harris it was an easy touchdown.

With three plebes starting in the back there were a number of times that Army over-pursued and were victimized by cutback runs with players being out of their assigned lanes. Brandon Fusilier Jeffires made 15 tackles and was often the last line of defense. He missed a tackle against Josh Harris on the opening drive of the second half to allow a 19-yard touchdown run. While Harris and Martin are talented remember that Wake Forest had entered this game averaging just 1.9 yards per rushing attempt. They had run for only 98 rushing yards against Liberty. In that context this was an especially dismal performance.

SPECIAL TEAMS C+
Dan Grochkowski missed the PAT after the first touchdown due to a bad snap from Andrew Ellerson. Holder A.J. Schurr did a fine job getting the ball down. Grochkowski hit the rest of his extra point attempts and a 21-yard field goal before the half to give Army a halftime lead. Chris Bolt averaged 40 yards on two punts. Stephen Fraser had kickoff returns of 37 and 33 yards and has seemed to have settled into the role as kick returner after a shaky debut opening day.

Jon Crucitti returned punts in the place of the injured Josh Jackson and had a fair catch and one punt return for five yards. The punt return corners need to do a much better job blocking the opposition gunners. The Army punt returners have had no room the last two years. Eric Osteen blasted the ball on his kickoffs posting an impressive five touch-backs on his six kickoffs. Army coverage teams were excellent with Corey Watts making a nice tackle wrapping up Campanaro.

COACHING C
Army offensive coordinator Ian Shields called a terrific game on offense and kept Wake Forest off balance all day. I would have liked if Rich Ellerson had been more aggressive before the half and had Steelman attempt a pass with time left rather than running the clock down for the field goal. Losing Steelman and Powis for the final drive probably cost the team a chance to win. Defensive coordinators Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland are probably shell shocked at how overwhelmed the defensive front has been. I do give the staff some credit of not accepting the status quo and starting three plebes on defense. Brandon Fusilier Jeffires, Alex Meier and Chris Carnegie made some mistakes and have to adapt to the speed of the game at this level. The good news is they have the ability to improve despite the growing pains.

OVERALL GRADE C
The offense deserved better. They defense was just awful despite getting two stops late in the game. The C grade is the average of the offense getting an A and the defense posting a failing grade. Rich Ellerson needs to get his team to play some defense because this is right now looking like a very long season.

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