The Army Black Knights were thoroughly outclassed by the Navy Midshipmen in a 34-7 loss in America's game. The 114th meeting was played in a steady snowstorm. Army gave sophomore AJ Schurr the start at quarterback but he fumbled on his first two series and was benched. His replacement Angel Santiago didn't fare much better as he turned over the ball twice and led only one touchdown drive. On the other side Navy's talented sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran for 136 yards and scored three touchdowns as he set the NCAA single season touchdown rushing mark for a quarterback with 29 scores. Army's offense struggled to sustain drives while the defense was victimized by a big plays and costly roughing penalties. Army has now lost the last 12 games in the series. The Black Knights ended the season with five consecutive losses. Head coach Rich Ellerson's was fired the day after the game.
PASSING OFFENSE: D
The staff gave the start to AJ Schurr after his performance in the last game against Hawaii. Schurr immediately took the air out of the Army crowd when the wet ball slipped out of his hands. The Black Knights were lucky Larry Dixon recovered it. That mistake killed the opening drive. AJ's last pass before he was pulled was a play action roll out he wisely through away because Navy had everyone covered.
Angel Santiago completed 5-of-10 passes for 50 passing yards but he wasn't helped much by his receivers and his own limitations. Angel 's lack of arm strength, with the wind gusting, limited him to mostly screen passes. His interception on his third series was a poor decision and a worse throw as he floated the ball into coverage over the middle of the field. He had a receiver open at the sticks for a much easier pass but never looked his way. Before the half, in the two minute drill, he completed two screen passes to Xavier Moss (5 rec. for 50 yards). The drive ended with three straight incompletions due to two dropped passes by Moss and one by Lawrence. Santiago threw a flutter ball that was batted down by the wind but Moss made a nice adjustment to make a 29 yard reception. It was easily the longest pass play of the day and set up Army's only touchdown. Army's offense line didn't allow any sacks but Santiago was pressured a few times.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F
The Black Knights ran for a season low 157 yards, averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and had just one rushing touchdown. Navy and Army understand what each other try to do in the option game. Navy athleticism covering the alley helped limit Army's run game. AJ Schurr ran five times for minus three yards due to his 8-yard loss fumbling attempting to pass the ball. His fumble running on the second series led to his benching.
Angel Santiago's play after the initial series was rather tentative and he made a number of poor pitch decisions. A number of times he was too conservative in the bad weather and failed to pitch the ball.
Santiago ran ten times for 40 yards and a touchdown. He had one nice run for 26-yards to set up the touchdown.
Navy knew Terry Baggett (11 att., 41 yards) was Army's only big play threat and did a nice job containing him. Running back Tony Giovannelli ( 7 atts, 38 yards.) had a couple of nice runs early but was bottled up in the second half. Larry Dixon was gutty playing with a cast on his broken arm. Dixon carried 9 times for 33 yards. He made an excellent block to secure the edge on Santiago's touchdown run.
Army's offensive line was outplayed and Navy was usually able to beat Army's blocks on the perimeter.
PASSING DEFENSE: C
Reynolds completed just 2-of-7 passes for 10 yards. It shows what a difficult day it was to throw the ball. Reynolds had entered the game throwing at least one touchdown pass in each of the last six games. Army wishes his incompletion on the final play of the opening series was on target. Josh Jenkins (3 interceptions) had jumped the route and was in perfect position to pick off the pass and take it the other way. Shaquille Tolbert ( 5 tackles, Pass def) broke up a pass but actually was lucky because he overran the play. Mike Ugenyi (3 tackles) actually pressured Reynolds to cause the underthrown pass. Bobby Kough's personal foul hitting Reynolds with his helmet was costly. It gave Navy a first down and they scored their first touchdown on the next play. I can't chastise Kough on that play since he made a nice burst to quarterback but was victimized by the new rules on leading with the helmet. It is a tough call against a defensive player but it is the new rule. Kyle Maxwell also drew a roughing the passer penalty which set up a field goal. Navy earned no first downs passing. This was the one area where Army did a nice job but the penalties did hurt resulting in a lower grade.
RUSHING DEFENSE: D
The Black Knights run defense allowed 343 rushing yards, 6 yards per carry and four touchdowns. The run defense was killed by three big plays which combined for 144 rushing yards and produced 17 points. The Mids produced 42% of their rushing yards on those three plays. The defense did force six punts. Army's undersized front wore down as the game went on. The front line played pretty well but had a few breakdowns. Nose tackle Richard Glover made eight tackles and played well. He made a stop on fourth-and-3 on the opening drive of the third quarter. It breathed temporary life into the team and Army's offense scored on the following possession. Bobby Kough (5 tackles, TFL) outplayed Navy's inexperienced tackle Joey Gaston. Senior Kyle Maxwell filled in ably when Kough needed a break one series. Maxwell made consecutive tackles to force a punt. Senior captain Jarrett Mackey (11 tackles, 2 TFL, FF) had a solid game till being hurt late in the contest. He forced a Reynolds fumble on the goal line when Army made a stand and held Navy to three points. Geoffrey Bacon (8 tackles) was used at Mike linebacker for the first time this year. He failed to maintain leverage and play inside out properly a few plays as he over pursued on some of the long runs. His speed to cover the alleys did help limit Navy slotbacks. Losing Captain Thomas Holloway (7 tackles) for an extended amount of time hurt. Holloway had to receive a pain killing shot to return in the second half and played hurt. Hayden Pierce (3 tackles) started at free safety and did a nice job running the pitch alley. James Kelly (4 tackles) didn't play as well as he did last year. Chris Carnegie ( 2 tackles) showed good speed in running down Quinton Singleton after a 58-yard run at the four yard line and saved a touchdown. Army's overall lack of team speed showed on some of the long runs as the backside pursuit was a few steps slow getting there in time. It is one of the differences between the two teams as Navy has more big play threats. Navy had only 13 rushing first downs. Overall it wasn't as bad as the statistics looked but in the end the scoreboard doesn't lie. Army wasn't able to limit Navy long runs as they did in 2012. It was the difference in the game and results in a "D"grade.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Punter Alex Tardieu had six punts for a 36.3 average. He placed one inside the twenty yard line. Tardieu had two relatively short punts that twice gave Navy good field position for touchdowns but the conditions were very difficult to kick in. Julian Crockett had six kickoff returns for 100 yards. Due to short kickoffs Army had decent field position most of the game but did nothing with it. Scott Williams returned one punt three yards. He made a mistake before the end of the half letting Pablo Beltran's 51-yard punt to sail over his head. It was downed at the 38-yard line. It forced Army to take a knee rather than having a chance to get in field goal position. Kicker Dan Grochowski had one touchback and hit his extra point. Army did an excellent job in coverage. Special teams ace Stephen Riccardi had a chippy personal foul but it didn't cost Army any points. Army's special teams were beat on an option pass for a two point conversion
Rich Ellerson will take grief over everything at this point but I agree with his decisions to start AJ Schurr at quarterback and play Geoff Bacon at Mike linebacker. Schurr literally dropped the ball with his opportunity. Ian Shields wasn't able to get the offensive in any rhythm. Bacon over pursued on a few long runs but if people think Colby Miller should have started I suggest they look at the Air Force film or Miller playing late in the game. He lacked the speed and athleticism to make any plays outside the box again an option attack.
I was disappointed in the quarterback play and the offensive line I didn't disagree with either attempt to go for it on fourth down despite the fact they were stopped. Army needed to play to win.
Chris Smeland and Payam Saadat defensive plan was sound but the Black Knights were hurt by its lack of talent and speed on defense to limit Navy's explosiveness. I was surprised Ellerson chose to defer and play defense to start the day. Maybe he felt the Black Knights could stop the Mids and get better field possession. The field conditions were deteriorating rapidly. I thought it was a mistake.
OVERALL GRADE: D
This was an ugly end to the Rich Ellerson era. The problem is a lot of these players remain. Army enters the game ranked 13th in the nation in fewest turnovers but had five fumbles, lost two and an interception. I know the conditions were awful but that is simply not responding to the challenge. Army had their chance to beat Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds as a plebe in 2012. They may regret missing that opportunity over the next two years.
Army Report Card: Navy
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