Army Report Card: Air Force

Army fell to Air Force 42-28 on Saturday.'s Jim Lawler grades the Blacks Knights performance in several key team areas.

The Army Black Knights lost to the Air Force Falcons 42-28 in Colorado Springs. Army jumped out to an early first half lead but couldn't answer as the Falcons ran off 21 straight points. Army's run defense was pathetic as Air Force's Anthony LaCoste rushed for a career-high 263 yards and scored three touchdowns. The game was tied 21-21 at half time. In the Rich Ellerson era Army has led or been tied with Air Force in the three games in Colorado Springs at half time. They have lost all three games as Air Force has outscored them 73-7 in the second half. The Air Force (2-7) victory ended their seven game losing streak. Army (3-6) has now lost two consecutive games against one-win teams playing freshmen quarterbacks. The loss will deny Army opportunity to play for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

Angel Santiago completed 8-of-14 passes for 109 passing yards. His first pass was a key 12-yard completion to Anthony Stephens on third-and-10 for a first down on the second touchdown drive. On the next drive he overthrew an open Stephens deep on a fade route. He floated a pass on the next series for a 19-yard gain to Xavier Moss (3 rec. for 35 yards). Two plays later Santiago hit Larry Dixon on a waggle action roll out for a 19-yard gain. That play, with another personal foul on Air Force's notorious cheap shot artist Dexter Walker for pushing Dixon down out of bounds, set up Army's third touchdown of the first half. Army's only pass attempt in the third quarter resulted in a roughing the passer penalty. After a missed field goal attempt followed by two drives that ended with just 26 rushing yards and two punts the Black Knights were down 35-21 and forced to pass. Santiago had a pass knocked down at the line. He then hit Moss for a 12-yard gain. Following a run he showed a nice touch hitting Baggett for 26-yards between defenders. His next pass attempt was a key pass. Santiago felt pressure and rather than stepping up into the pocket he scrambled right into a stunt by AF nose guard Robert Green and was sacked making it third-and-16. Santiago completed a pass to Chevaughn Lawrence for ten yards but badly overthrew Moss who was covered on a button hook. The next series opened with a sack on a delayed blitz that AF likes to use. Santiago then made a poor throw behind Moss for just a 4-yard gain. Moss made a nice catch. On third down Angel was forced to scramble for 4-yards but the Black Knights were well short of the first down. The final series he completed a short pass to Baggett but missed on his last two passes as the Black Knights turned the ball over on downs. When forced to pass the Black Knights were out of their element and it showed.

The Black Knights ran for 308 yards, averaged 4.4 yards per carry and had four rushing touchdowns. It was the tale of two halves as Army's offensive line once again dominated AF in the first half for the third year in a row. The Black Knights had three touchdown drives of 75-yards as they initially dominated the point of attack. AF adjusted and started firing their cornerback and overloading to the play side. In the third quarter Army missed a field goal on their opening drive. They then just ran eight plays on two series as they were forced to punt and AF pulled away. Quarterback Angel Santiago (20 att., 61 yards, 3 TDs) did a nice job running the offense and keeping the ball off the ground.

Terry Baggett (20 att., 121 yards, TD) played hard and was Army's most dangerous threat. AF focused on him in the second half and wasn't going to let him beat them. Larry Dixon ran 17 times for 82 yards. Dixon crushed a Falcon defensive back on Baggett's 10-yard touchdown run. Trenton Turrentine (6 atts., 19 yards) may have been hurt because I didn't see him in the second half. Aaron Kemper ran three times for 14 yards. Tony Giovannelli had a nine yard run after Army recovered the muffed punt.

It doesn't get much worse than this one. Air Force freshman QB Nate Romine completed seven of his eight passes for 111 yards. Romine's first completion was to Garrett Brown off waggle action in the flat for a 10-yard gain. Chris Carnegie (3 tackles) made the tackle and it moved the chains on AF's second touchdown drive.

Carnegie drew two interference penalties that gave the Falcons first downs. Romine completed a pass to the tight end for 19 yards on a slow developing dig route where no one picked him up. It set up AF's touchdown to tie the score before halftime. Geoffrey Bacon bit hard on play action and let Garrett Brown run free behind him for a 28-yard gain to the 1-yard line which made it 35-21 and put the game out of reach. Bacon was later beat when he was late to cover a wheel route on the final touchdown. Josh Jenkins (3 tackles) was called for pass interference on AF's final drive when his feet clipped the Falcon wide receiver. It was a rough call because the ball was uncatchable and gave the Falcons a first down rather than a third and long.

AF's only incompletion was the rare time when Army didn't try to just contain Romine and pressured him forcing a throwaway. Jarrett Mackey (7 tackles) missed a sack on third down in the first half when he allowed Romine to scramble away for a first down.

The Black Knights defense struggled all day with their positing and reactions to motion by Air Force. While people mock Ellerson's post game comment that, "We have seen this offense before and we've never had that much trouble getting our eyes around it and getting our numbers straight," it's really what happened when you watch the tape. Geoffrey Bacon (10 tackles) looked rusty, didn't react well and took poor angles to the ball. Justin Trimble (2 tackles) missed tackles on two of Anthony LaCoste's longest runs of the day. Trimble had a very poor day and to make matters worse he broke Julian Holloway's leg when he slammed into him after missing the tackle on LaCoste's 43-yard run before the end of the first half. Rich Glover (5 tackles) forced a punt when he hit Devin Rushing in the back field and Bobby Kough (5 tackles) dropped him for a five yard loss forcing a punt. Mike Ugenyi (7 tackles, 2 FF) battled but was turned out a number of times on long running plays.

Colby Miller (8 tackles, 2 TFL) hustles and will hit but he is painfully slow to the alleys and get stuck on blocks. Miller can only play between the tackles if he's clean. When offensive linemen get to the second level he lacks the speed or athleticism to take them on or avoid them. Hayden Pierce (3 tackles) replaced the injured Shaq Tolbert who left the game early with an injury. Pierce needs to be a lot more physical in run support to help the team. The Army defense allowed 343 rushing yards, 7.5 yards per carry and six rushing touchdowns. It was a disaster.

Punter Alex Tardieu had three punts for a 36.9 average. He shanked one punt 13-yards. He did get off a 55-yard bomb on a fourth quarter punt which was muffed by Air Force's Garrett Brown and recovered by Steve Ricciardi. It set up Army's final touchdown. Julian Crockett had one kickoff returns for 20 yards. Scott Williams fair caught two punts and was swarmed over on his only return attempt. Dan Grochowski had a miserable game with a 48-yard attempt blocked and a 39-yard field goal which he pushed wide. He had four touchbacks on five kickoffs in the high altitude. Army's coverage teams allowed one 27-yard kickoff return and as mentioned the punt return team alertly recovered the muff. This probably should be an "F" grade but the one fumbled punt recovery set up a touchdown moving it up to a "D". Grochowski's misses cost the chance for this to be a one possession game when Army had the ball at the end.

Rich Ellerson said "It's awful," Ellerson said. "We got outcoached and we got outplayed. We fought hard for a while. But we are not nearly right enough and we lose a lot of the physical battles. We don't win enough of the physical fight and we don't win the coaching fight, so don't be surprised." Ian Shields had a great first half but didn't counter AF defense forcing the game back between the tackles.

Chris Smeland and Payam Saadat defense had limited the Falcons the previous two years but it looked like they never saw it before last week. Players were slow to react, misread plays, didn't cover their gaps, took poor pursuit angles and missed tackles. Special teams coach Luke Thompson's kick coverage and return teams do not block anyone.

This looked like it was going to be an Army blow out in the first quarter but that changed quickly. This was a miserable performance with an extra week to prepare. The defense's performance was pathetic. There is no reason that Army was beat by two touchdowns against this Falcon team. Air Force isn't that good which says a lot about where the Army program is right now. Top Stories