The Army Black Knights played their best all round game this season as they defeated Louisiana Tech 35-16 at the Cotton Bowl in the newly created Heart of Dallas Kickoff Classic. Army overcame the bad weather, injuries and two game delays as they ran for five touchdowns. It was the Black Knights first road win since the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl. The victory improves Army record to 2-3 as Louisiana Tech falls to 1-4 following their nine win campaign in 2012.
PASSING OFFENSE: C
Angel Santiago was 1-of-3 for 16 passing yards. Army's running attack was so effective that he didn't need to throw a pass in the second half. Santiago had two pass attempts on the Black Knights opening drive. He just overthrew Chevaughn Lawrence deep on his first pass attempt. It was a well thrown pass. Lawrence has a habit of slowing his stride when looking back for a pass. As a result he never gave himself the chance to run under the ball. Later in the same series Angel badly missed Xavier Moss who was wide open on a flag route. Santiago rolled out into pressure and wasn't able to set his feet as he threw the ball way out of bounds off his back foot. Moss would have scored if Santiago had been able to throw even a decent pass. That pass did accomplish something because La. Tech fired their cornerbacks on the play to stop the option. It gave their defensive staff a shot across the bow and they stopping doing it which helped open up the perimeter running game. Santiago's only completion was on a nicely designed pass off a waggle action roll out which Hayden Tippett caught for a 16-yard gain that set up Army's third touchdown.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A+
The Black Knights rushed for 414 yards, averaged 5.4 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns. The offensive line rebounded from their struggles in the Wake Forest game with their best all round performance of the season. The interior of the line, especially center Ryan Powis, played very well against the Bulldogs huge defensive tackles and their talented middle linebacker Daniel Cobb.
Terry Baggett (18 att. 143 yards, 2 TDs) has replaced the injured Raymond Maples as Army's featured running back as he ran for a career high 143 yards. Trenton Turrentine (12 atts., 81 yards) had one of the best games of his career both running hard and in blocking on the perimeter. Fullback Larry Dixon returned after missing a game as he rushed for 70 yards on 17 carries.
Angel Santiago (19 att., 77 yards.1 TD) served as the perfect game manager. It was his best game distributing the ball with no turnovers. Lawrence Scott (3 att., 24 yards) flashed good speed on a few carries. Backup B back Hayden Tippett (3 att., 10 yards) had a nice series running and catching a pass to set up a touchdown. Last year's USMAPS MVP Aaron Kemper scored the first touchdown of his career and blocked well. Kemper was used as a running back after playing fullback at the prep school. Back-up quarterback Kelvin White, filling in for the injured A.J. Schurr, scored his first career touchdown on a one yard plunge when Angel Santiago had to leave the game after his helmet was knocked off.
PASSING DEFENSE: B
Louisiana Tech's quarterback Ryan Higgins completed 20-of-36 for 320 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Army sacked him four times. There were three series in a row when Tech scored and it looked like they could spread the Black Knights out and pass at will. The defense rebounded as they allowed just 18 yards on three straight series to secure the win.
Chris Carnegie (2 tackles) allowed a few receptions but played a solid game. Plebe cornerback Josh Jenkins (1 pass defensed) continues to demonstrate his ability to play the ball that made him the USMAPS defensive MVP last year. In the second quarter on fourth-and-3 he jumped a route and nearly intercepted a pass. Jenkins later received a personal foul and was ejected on a highly debatable targeting call when he combined with Hayden Pierce to break up a pass in the end zone. Pierce returned from the dog house to start at free safety for the injured Geoff Bacon. Pierce (3 tackles) broke up a deep pass and also tipped the pass to Ryan Guillot that drew the controversial flag. SAM safety Shaquille Tolbert (9 tackles, 1 INT, forced fumble) stats were better than his play. Tolbert struggled matching up with slot receivers and was beat consistently by Andrew Guillot who had 123 yards and a touchdown against him. Marques Avery, who recently returned from a back injury, replaced the ejected Jenkins. Avery made a nice play knocking down a pass. Another player who had seen less time was pass rush specialist Colin Linkul. He posted two consecutive sacks for a loss of 21 yards just when it looked like the Bulldogs were mounting a comeback. Later he recovered a fumble after a Shaq Tolbert hit.
Bobby Kough had 4 tackles and a sack. Jarrett Mackey (1 tackle) started at quick end as the Black Knights used Justin Trimble (2 tackles) as a nickel defensive back. Senior Kyle Maxwell showed a nice burst after beating a block to record a sack. I'm surprised Maxwell doesn't receive more snaps.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A
The Black Knights held Tech well below their season average. They allowed 57 rushing yards, 2.5 yards per carry and one touchdown. Army had eight tackles for a loss. It was the first time Army held a team below 100 yards rushing since Fordham in 2011. Julian Holloway (9 tackles, 1 ½ TFL) has found a home at Mike linebacker. Rover Thomas Holloway made four tackles. Marcus Polling (4 tackles) rotated in with Julian Holloway. The interior of the line did a nice job holding the point of attack. Louisiana Tech came out determined to establish the run. Army stuffed them on consecutive series and after the Black Knights second possession they had a 14-0 lead they never relinquished.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Kicker Dan Grochowski hit all his extra points and made a possible touchdown saving tackle of speedy Tevin King on the opening kickoff. Groch had one touchback on a rainy day. Punter Alex Tardieu averaged 35.5 yards on four punts. He placed one inside the twenty yard line. Jalen Noble made a poor decision not to fair catch the first punt. He was knocked out of the game but held on to the ball. Reliable Scott Williams filled in the rest of the way. As usual he caught everything sent his way but didn't offer much of a return threat. The Black Knights did a good job covering punts but were shaky on kickoff returns.
Rich Ellerson and the staff did a nice job having the team prepared to play this game. There was a lot to overcome with injuries to key players that put backups on the field, two weather delays, the bad weather and the loss of their best cover cornerback in the third quarter. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields called a brilliant game and constantly had the Bulldogs off balance. The defensive scheme of Chris Smeland and Payam Sadaat worked well and surprisingly held up very well against the run. They inserted Colin Linkul in at the right time and he delivered two huge sacks in a row to effectively end Tech's comeback. The only thing I didn't like was Ellerson calling out Josh Jenkins on that highly questionable targeting penalty in the postgame. However, that had nothing to do with coaching the game.
OVERALL GRADE: A
A nice win for the team that broke the road losing streak. It was a well-played, well coached game especially considering how some of Army's best players like Raymond Maples and Geoff Bacon were sidelined with injuries.
Army Report Card: Louisiana Tech
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