Army Report Card: Rutgers

The Army Black Knights played one of their best defensive game of the season against the No. 23 Rutgers Scarlet Knights but still lost 28-7. The game was tied 7-7 midway through the fourth quarter. The Black Knights helped beat themselves with three lost fumbles, a controversial dropped touchdown pass, two blocked field goals and a fumble returned for a touchdown.

The Army Black Knights played one of their best defensive game of the season against the No. 23 Rutgers Scarlet Knights but still lost 28-7. The game was tied 7-7 midway through the fourth quarter. The Black Knights helped beat themselves with three lost fumbles, a controversial dropped touchdown pass, two blocked field goals and a fumble returned for a touchdown. Army made four trips inside the red zone and came away with no points. The loss drops Army's record to 2-8.

Quarterback Trent Steelman completed 7 of 17 passes for 55 yards. Wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence caught 3 passes for 22 yards. The key play was the pass Lawrence dropped just before the end of the first half. Steelman rolled to his left and made a terrific throw to Lawrence who initially looked like he caught the ball and had both feet down in the end zone for an apparent touchdown. The ball came loose after Rutgers Marcus Cooper hit him and they landed in the end zone. I'm surprised the call of an incomplete pass wasn't overturned. A few plays earlier Steelman threw a 16-yard completion to Malcolm Brown on fourth-and-2. It was a quick seam route to a running back in the slotback that Air Force uses and Army has started to incorporate it more in the passing game. If Brown didn't make a lateral move, which allowed him to be tackled by speedy Duron Harmon from behind, he could have picked up an additional ten yards.

Lead footed wide receiver Patrick Laird (1 rec., 8 yards) had trouble creating any separation from Rutgers fast and athletic secondary. In general Army receivers lacked the speed or explosiveness to create separation from Rutgers much faster secondary. Army's Raymond Maples made a 6-yard reception in the third period on third-and-8 that was short of the first down. Steelman struggled late when forced to pass but that's just not Army's game anyway especially when matched against a secondary this good.

Army's offensive line allowed only one sack to a Scarlet Knights defensive line. Army's line usually gave Steelman enough time when he attempted to pass until late in the game.

Army ran for 282 yards, averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored a rushing touchdown. Rutgers plays excellent defense against the option. Their team speed allows them to limit pitch opportunities and force the game to be played in a proverbial phone booth between the tackles. Quarterback Trent Steelman carried 26 times for 103 yards and scored the only Army touchdown. Last year when Angel Santiago started against Rutgers, people wondered why he didn't pitch more and you saw it today again with Steelman under center. Rutgers defense knows how to defend the option. They are now 11-2 in their last 13 games against option teams. Steelman did an amazing job scoring on The Opening drive when he twisted out of two tackles. Losing fullback Larry Dixon (6 car., 81 yards) for an extended period after he was sent flying by Jamal Merrill and his injury hurt Army's chances. He was ably replaced by a good player in fullback Hayden Tippett (7 car., 31 yards). However Tippett lacks Dixon's burst in the hole and is more of a pure power back who wasn't able to burst into the secondary like Dixon. Larry's 26-yard run set up the Black Knights only touchdown. Dixon did return to the game late but a rare fumble by him inside the 20 proved costly. Raymond Maples ran 13 times for 58 yards. Malcolm Brown didn't find any running room on five carries. Brown was dropped for losses on two carries and he ended up with zero net yards. Stephen Fraser (3 car., 14 yards) and Trenton Turrentine (3 att., 12 yards) didn't find much running room against Rutgers fast 4-4-2 defensive scheme. A.J. Schurr lost the handle on a ball and it was snatched out of the air by Rutgers Duron Harmon and returned 73 yards for a touchdown. Plebe Matt Giachinta, who played on the JV team this year, saw his first varsity action at fullback with two carries for six yards on the last series. Chevaughn Lawrence ran for 16 yards on a rare reverse.

Army defense did a solid job against the Rutgers passing attack. It was obvious that the Scarlet Knights felt they could just run the ball against Army but that almost backfired. While Nova completed 14 of 17 passes and threw a touchdown, he was kept in check. If you include Jamison option pass touchdown the Army defense allowed just 139 passing yards, two touchdowns and picked off a pass.

The Army front seven built off their great Air Force game and played well. Rutgers offensive line entered the game having allowed just six sacks all year. The Black Knights were able to generate pressure up front which often forced Nova to check down short as the Black Knights forced six punts. Colin Linkul and Holt Zalneratis teamed up for the Black Knights only sack which forced a punt.

Nate Combs was everywhere with 10 tackles, a pass knocked down that forced a punt and a quarterback hurry. Rover Alex Meier made eight tackles including stopping Mark Harrison short of a first down forcing a punt with quick end Zach Watts (7 tackles) earning a quarterback hurry on the play.

Chris Carnergie (5 tackles) needs to stop tackling high. Rutgers big receiver Mark Harmon dragged Carnegie for first down on the opening series. SAM safety Justin Trimble (2 tackles) intercepted Nova at the 20-yard line in the fourth quarter to end a promising Rutgers drive.

Cornerback Marques Avery fell in the end zone on his shoulder trying to stop Brandon Coleman's 16 yard touchdown catch off a Jamison option pass and left the game. Avery has already endured surgery on both shoulders since his prep season.

Army held Rutgers to just 113 yards on 34 carries and one touchdown. Geoffrey Bacon made 12 tackles and showed his range making tackles all over the field. Defensive tackle Bobby Kough (4 tackles, 1 TFL) played well at the point of attack most of the game.

Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires (12 tackles) continues to bring the lumber in run support. T.J. Atimalala did a nice job sliding off a block to stop Jamison on a third down in the first half.

It was a disaster in the kicking game and ended any hopes of an upset victory. Plebe kicker Dan Grochowski's 43-yard field goal was blocked by Rutgers Marcus Cooper. Grochowski had a 30-yard field goal attempt blocked by Rutgers Jamal Merrell just before the end of the first half. It was demoralizing since it occurred just after Chevaughn Lawrence apparent touchdown reception was ruled incomplete. Both kicks were low and neither had a chance. Army lost long snapper Frank Ceva who was injured against Ball State. Andrew Ellerson has been handling both short and long snapping duties since and sailed one over punter Chris Boldt's head. It was recovered by Raymond Maples at the Army 1-yard line. Two plays later it was a 21-7 Rutgers lead and the game was over. Boldt also shanked a 9-yard punt off the side of his foot which set up Rutgers with a short field and allowed them to score their second touchdown.

Eric Osteen will probably get a shot at the placekicking job this week. He continued his excellent work with a touchback on one of his two kickoffs. Josh Jackson returned a punt for 34 yards and made a nice move to break two tackles. Julian Crockett's longest return was just 23 yards but he made some nice cuts to pick up some extra yards. Kickoff coverage allowed a 29-yard return to Jeremy Deering.

The team had a solid game plan and executed well but it could not overcome three lost fumbles, a dropped touchdown pass, two blocked field goals and a bad snap on a field goal. A lot of that is on the players but continued breakdown of fundamentals is frustrating as this team finds a way to leave potential victories on the table.

Some question Ellerson not going for it on fourth-and short a few times like he normally has done this year. Since it was a tie game midway through the fourth quarter he was wise to play for field position since the defense was playing well. I would have called a timeout after Lawrence's catch was ruled incomplete to give the replay official another look. Despite a new special teams coach the old problems still remain. Defensive coordinators 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. The preparation was excellent but Army consistently has too many fundamental breakdowns that just should not happen.

The Black Knights entered this game against a quality opponent and played well on defense for the second straight week. They competed until the end and had a chance to win until late in the fourth quarter. It was a very good effort but the special team's breakdowns and fumbles killed a legitimate chance for an upset. Top Stories