The Army Black Knights (1-3) lost a game they needed to win against Wake Forest (2-2) on Saturday at Michie Stadium In what was an ugly game, Army's defense played tough as the Black Knights grinded their way to an 11-10 lead but Wake Forest scored the final 15 points of the game to secure an 25-11 victory. After engaging in an offensive shootout last year at North Carolina this game was a defensive struggle for most of the contest.
PASSING OFFENSE: D
Angel Santiago was 4-of-9 for just 19 passing yards. Santiago needed to make some passing plays down the field with the way Wake Forest was playing defense. He often couldn't because he made poor throws or no one was open. His first pass was a throw he into double coverage for Xavier Moss down the field. His next pass on third down was slightly behind receiver Chevaughn Lawrence but Wake Forest's cornerback definitely hit him early but no flag was thrown and Army was forced to punt. Santiago had his third pass batted down which is an issue going back to USMAPS for the diminutive quarterback. Angel completed his first pass to Xavier Moss (8 rec., 61 yards) to set up the first field goal. Angel did a terrible job on the two minute offense before the end of the half when he poorly threw an off target pass to Lawrence who made a diving three yard reception short of the first down marker. Lawrence never should have caught it. Santiago was lucky not to throw an interception when he tried to float a wheel route pass to Lawrence Scott which was broken up only because two Demon Deacon defensive backs collided with each other.
A.J. Schurr completed his only pass attempt to Terry Baggett for 22-yards which was a nicely thrown ball on the move. Army fans saw their first varsity appearance of strong armed quarterback Kelvin White. He played the last series and completed 5-of-6 passes for 45 yards. He showed his arm strength when he drilled a 26-yard slant pattern towards Moss which drew an interference penalty. Moss demonstrated his run after the catch ability when he made some nice cuts on a short 16-yard reception. The offensive line allowed no sacks but there were more than a few times Army quarterbacks didn't have a lot of time to throw. White's performance on the last drive is the only thing that saved this from a "F"- grade. The struggles with the running game and an ineffective passing attack caused Army to be just 5 for17 on third down conversions.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
The Black Knights rushed for 271 yards, averaged 4.9 yards per carry but didn't score a touchdown. For the third game in a row Army struggled to finish drives. Wake Forest's Jim Grobe used to be an a assistant coach at Air Force and he ran the option as a head coach for years. He used the old Air Force option defense with two linebackers outside the tackles. Wake Forest played the pitch back the same way Army has played it against Navy the last few years. Since he couldn't make any real plays in the passing game it forced the game between the tackles. That's where Wake Forest won this game as two time All-ACC nose guard Nikita Whitlock (an amazing 14 tackles, 3 for a loss) was unblockable. Army center Ryan Powis was completely outclassed for the first time in his career. You can talk about play calling, quarterback play, pitch relationship till the cows come home. Wake Forest won this game because Army's offensive line couldn't block the Demon Deacons defensive line. The offensive line made it worse with a pathetic six false start penalties including two each on Zach Reichert and Justin Gilbert.
Starter Angel Santiago (16 att., 60 yards) wasn't rattled and played within the scheme but didn't make any plays to finish three drives that all ended in field goals. Santiago fumbled once on a fluke play when his own offensive lineman kicked the football out of his hands but he recovered the ball. Angel's best running play was on designed quarterback draws or scrambling off pass plays when no one was open. He accumulated most all of his yards off these plays.
Terry Baggett ran for a career high with 125 rushing yards. He's demonstrated the last few weeks the ability we have discussed but only saw glimpses of due to injuries his first two years. Baggett has the ability to make people miss, turn the edge and run through tackles. Trenton Turrentine (8 atts., 35 yards) was the other starter with Maples out. He ran hard but missed a few blocks in space. Hayden Tippett (7 att. for 35 yards) filled in for the injured Larry Dixon but didn't see the ball much as Whitlock took away the fullback most of the game. Tippett did have, what looked at the time, to be a big 13-yard run when a special team's miscue backed them up inside the 10-yard line. Quarterback Kelvin White (4 att.16 yards) showed his physical running style as he picked up a first down on fourth-and-2 during the last drive. Stephen Fraser
was knocked out at the 2-yard line after being stopped for no gain on his only carry. A.J. Schurr lost ground in the quarterback battle when he lost two fumbles on just five snaps in the second quarter. He left the game limping and had his ankle taped but he returned to hold for field goal attempts
PASSING DEFENSE: B+
Wake Forest's quarterback Tanner Price struggled much of the day as Army held him to just six completions. Price finished the day
completing just 6- of-17 passes for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Free safety Geoff Bacon (4 tackles) played a solid game despite being injured and returning later with a cast on his hand. Bacon twice had good coverage in and near the end zone on incompletions. Bacon had a costly missed tackle on a third-and-15 play on Michael Campanaro who converted the catch for a first down. Bacon was bailed out by plebe cornerback Josh Jenkins who intercepted a pass in the end zone to end the drive. Bacon's first half injury proved costly as Tyler Dickson filled in for him. Michael Campanaro beat Shaquille Tolbert on a crossing route and Dickson then did what he's done his entire career as he took a poor shallow angle to the receiver and was easily outrun for the 66-yard touchdown. Chris Carnegie (4 tackles) showed good speed coming across the field but couldn't tackle Campanaro as he scored. Bacon was unable to make a play on the two point conversion pass to Williams due to the cast on his hand. Both of Army's cornerbacks played well.
Rover Thomas Holloway (8 tackles, sack, fumble recovery) had a sack that forced a short punt which led to a Black Knights field goal. Holloway had a good game but made a mistake when he sat on a route after a play action fake as tight end Spencer Bishop faked a block and caught a 39-yard pass after a clean release. It set up Wake Forest go ahead touchdown.
SAM safety Shaquille Tolbert (6 tackles) was beat by Michael Campanaro on the 66-yard pass but that was on Dickson as much as it was Tolbert. Shaquille played his best game as a Black Knight. He did a nice job making two open field tackles for losses on bubble screens. It was a play at had killed Army in last year's game. Army had only one sack but that was due more to the 2-5-4 look they ran. They did flush Price a few times but lacked a push up the middle.
RUSHING DEFENSE: C+
The Black Knights allowed 228 rushing yards, 5.1 yards per carry and two touchdowns on the ground. Army's 2-5-4 defensive look confused the Demon Deacons offensive line in the first half as the Black Knights used their speed to shoot gaps. Josh Harris was held to 26 yards on 10 carries in the first half when Army's defensive grade would have been an ‘A'-grade . Army never changed their front and Wake Forest eventually posted 125 rushing yards on final two drives. Richard Glover (3 tackles) produced a safety when he tackled Josh Harris in the end zone. Julian Holloway had a good game with six tackles. Marcus Polling's (4 tackles) speed and range is a plus at linebacker. Whip linebacker Jarrett Mackey (4 tackles) did a nice job filling running lane until he left with an injury. This looked like an A-grade through three quarters but the Black Knights fell apart on the final two drives.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Kicker Dan Grochowski hit three field goals from 39, 32 and 32 yards. He really boomed the ball on kickoffs as he had touchbacks on three of four kickoffs. Punter Alex Tardieu had his best game. He averaged 47.8 yards on five punts. He had two 51-yard punts as he nailed the ball all day long. Jalen Noble returned three kickoff for 44 yards. He had two costly mistakes. On a kickoff he dropped to his knee catching a kickoff at the 7-yard line and accidentally downed the ball costing Army nearly twenty yards of field position. He also failed to fair catch a punt and cost a struggling offense 25 yards of field position. The Black Knight did a decent job on kick coverage.
Rich Ellerson's team played hard but mental mistakes, penalties and a lack of play makers cost this team a potentially winnable game. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields tried a number of moves but the Army offensive line had no answer for nose guard Nikita Whitlock who is a two-time All-ACC selection. Whitlock made an amazing 14 tackles and helped force AJ Schurr's fumble. I didn't see much Shields could do today. Grobe played the AF defense against Army. He coached there for years and ran the option at Ohio. They did a nice job limiting the outside pitch and then funneling the play to the Wake Forest interior defensive line which dominated Army's offensive line. Nikita Whitlock destroyed center Ryan Powis and the guards today. Army never blocked him. If you can't block the other defensive line it is difficult to sustain offensive drives. The defensive staff did a nice job with the 2-5-4 alignment that caused Wake Forest a lot of trouble in the first half. Whether it was from the defense being on the field too long or not it wasn't effective on the last two drives. The staff should have switched back to the base defense to add more bulk when it needed to stop the run and get the ball back.
OVERALL GRADE: C
This was a game Army had to win against a mediocre Wake Forest team. They didn't. The defense has played much better the past two games but the offense needs to sustain and finish drives. With only two of the final six games at Michie Stadium this team better learn to win on the road or the future of this coaching staff is in jeopardy.
Army Report Card: Wake Forest
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