Army Report Card: Buffalo

Army defeated Buffalo 47-39 on Saturday at Michie Stadium. ArmySports.com's Jim Lawler grades the Black Knights performance in several key team areas.

The Army Black Knights held off the Buffalo Bulls 47-39 at Michie Stadium to open the Jeff Monken era with a victory. The Black Knights jumped out to a 47-17 lead only to see Buffalo mount a furious rally scoring the final 22 points of the game. Buffalo pulled within one score but on fourth-and-3 at their own 32yard line it was Army inside linebacker Andrew King who tackled Anthone Taylor short of the first down to secure the victory. It was Army's first win over Buffalo in three tries and keeps Jeff Monken's opening day coaching record perfect 5-0.

PASSING OFFENSE: A
Army quarterback Angel Santiago was a perfect 6-for-6 for 96 yards. Santiago's first completion, a third down- and 14, was a 30-yard pass to Raymond Maples. It was a key play with Army down 3-0 and its offense out of synch land led to the Black Knights opening touchdown. It was a well-designed route with Maples delaying then running a drag route across the formation leaving him wide open.

In the second quarter Santiago found an uncovered Maples (2 for 69) on wheel route for a 39-yard gain setting up the second touchdown. new tight end Kelvin White (3 for 15) had a few short receptions in the flat. Tony Giovanelli had a twelve yard reception in the first half.

Angel Santiago was sacked for a seven yard loss on his only pass attempt in the second half. Guard Stephen Shumaker was beat and Santiago was dropped for a seven yard loss on the opening series.

The only other pass in the second half was a 29-yard pass from A.J. Schurr that Edgar Poe caught that he could have fair caught it was so high. Schurr was under pressure and threw a balloon off his back foot. It would have been a touchdown if it was on target. The sack kept this grade from being an A+.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B+
The Black Knights ran for 341 yards, averaged 6.3 yards per carry and had seven rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Angel Santiago (12 att., 29 yrds, td) did what he does best in distributing the ball and generally making solid decisions. Angel lost two costly fumbles that cost ten points. Santiago made generally solid reads against a Buffalo defense that was lost in defending the option. He just needs to protect the ball better moving forward.

Larry Dixon had a career high 174 rushing yards on twenty carries. Dixon showed power and speed as he ran for touchdowns of 23 and 45 yards and ripped off another 57-yard run off a fullback option. Terry Baggett ( 6 att., 74 yrds, td ) had two key runs. Baggett showed both his power and speed on a huge 27- yard run on a second and 22 play to keep Army's second touchdown drive alive. He exploded through the hole and his 41-yard touchdown run and outran a very good Buffalo safety for the end zone. Tony Giovannelli (3 atts, 30 yards, TD) demonstrated good speed to the edge and did a nice job lowering his shoulder to score on his 4-yard touchdown run. It was great to see Raymond Maples healthy and back in the lineup. Maples carried six times for 19- yards and scored late in the first half. His key contribution in the running game was his blocking. He did a great job on Dixon's first touchdown run of sealing the backside pursuit. B-back Matt Giachinta gave Dixon a few breathers and had 7 carries for 15 yards and scored the Black Knights final touchdown. I was really pleased with the performance of the offensive line. I thought they weren't going to be ready to play at a high level due to all the injuries. After a slow start the first two series they proved me wrong. After the big pass play to Maples it seemed everything clicked most of the game upfront. Matt Hugenberg was impressive at center and Stephen Shumaker tough it out and played well on a bad hamstring. Only the two fumbles kept this from an A grade.

PASSING DEFENSE: C+
This initially was an impressive performance till the pass defense fell apart in the fourth quarter as the Bulls scored the last 22 points of the game. Army held Buffalo held to 81 passing yards and just three points in the first half. Buffalo QB Joe Licata ended up completing 34 of 49 passes for 396 passing yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

The key were the three interceptions. Chris Carnegie (6 tackles, int, PD) had a huge pick and a 28 yard return that set up Maples touchdown run just before the end of the first half. Carnegie had a huge pass breakup on the second to last play when he knocked the ball out of Ron Willoughby's hands on what would have been a huge gain. Cornerback Josh Jenkins (7 tackles, 2 int., PD) showed his ball hawking ability and burst to the ball with two picks. Both gave the Army offense a short field and 14 points. Jenkins made a big mistake when he gave up outside leverage on Marcus McGill 65-yard touchdown reception off a bubble screen. Geoff Bacon ( 5 tackles) made things worse by taking far too shallow an angle and getting the Bulls offense started with a big play on a route that never should have gained more than a first down. Bacon had a poor game. He had been late to help on a go route on Buffalo's first touchdown pass. He added a dumb unsportsmanlike penalty which drew the ire of his new head coach and landed him on the bench for a few series. Army's defense is designed to avoid big plays and it relies on the free safety keeping the play in front of him. Bacon did a poor job on a few plays. Sam safety Hayden Pierce (6 tackles) had a silly 15 yard late hit on a safety blitz after the ball was long gone. Safety Stephen Johnson (2 tackles, PD) broke up a pass and did a solid job when called on. Licata started to pick the Army secondary apart when he threw out patterns and underneath late in the game.

Get used to the Army defensive line not generating any pressure. The Black Knights use a 3-4 bend but don't break Navy philosophy that hopes the opposing quarterback will make a mistake. That worked against Licata and was the difference in the game. The goal is to keep the play in front of them and avoid the big play which didn't happen because of some breakdowns. This grade was based on the interceptions which set up the offense for 21 points.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C
The Black Knights run defense allowed 153 rushing yard and the Bulls averaged 5.3 per carry for the game. Defensive tackle Joe Drummond (2 tackles) had two key stops. One was dropping Anthone Taylor for a two yard loss from the three yard line which helped hold the Bulls to a field goal. In the second half he stuffed Taylor at the line on third down and short which led to a turnover on downs after Buffalo dropped a fourth down pass.

New sophomore Inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf (11 tackles) was active but a number of his tackles were in pass coverage down the field. Andrew King (7 tackles, PD) let Army fans finally breathe again when he tackled Anthone Taylor short of the first down on the Bulls final drive.

The Black Knights lack speed at outside linebacker with Stephen Ricciardi (4 tackles) and James Kelly (3 tackles) when they are forced to play in space. The Black Knights tackling was improved as a result of the hitting in practice but team speed in the front seven is still limited and they are, at times, slow to react and breakdown properly.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Punter Alex Tardieu had three punts for a 38-yard average. He placed two punts inside the twenty yard line. Jenkins did a nice job downing one punt at the one yard line. His last punt was his worst of the day when it traveled just 28-yards.

Chris Carnegie showed his speed on the opening kickoff return for 33 yards. Army only forced one punt all day and it wasn't returned. Dan Grochowski missed two consecutive extra points that were blocked because they were too low and it nearly cost the Black Knights. He was benched and Cale Brewer converted the last extra point. Grochowski had one touchback in seven attempts. Mitchell Howard had a touchback in his only kickoff.

Army's Justin Fahn had nice coverage squib kickoff when he tackled the Bulls Eiland at the six yard line. Addison Holstein had a real nice hit on a kickoff and Richie Smith was in on two special team tackles. The Black Knights allowed just 15.2 yard average on six kickoff returns. Deandre Bell did a nice job catching a pop up kickoff. A J Schurr had a clutch one hand grab of the last onside kick. Army lost the other onside kick which proved costly.

COACHING: B
Jeff Monken's team won which is the most important result from Saturday. Monken's team had a lot of the same issues we've seen the last few years with fumbles and undisciplined mistakes. The 12 penalties for 105 yards was worse than anything we saw recently. Hopefully Monken can tightened things up. It's obvious with his intensity, getting after players and sitting offenders like Bacon and Grochowski show he will not tolerate it which is an improvement. The special team’s coverage and return units which he handles were terrific.

Great job by offensive coordinator Brent Davis using different formations in the running game and creative use of the slotbacks in the passing game. Army posted 466 yards of offense and seven touchdowns scored by six different players. It was nice to see an option offense that wasn't using just go and wheel routes in the passing game. Davis use of Maples on a delayed drag route was a big key on the second drive.

Jay Bateman’s defense played well in the first half and through most of the third quarter before falling apart and being in their heels as they gave up the last 22 points. There were too many breakdowns even if the tackling was improved.

OVERALL GRADE: B
I give the team and the staff credit for an excellent effort and being well prepared. However it’s frustrating to see too many Army being Army moments when the team makes mistakes and takes penalties. At least in this one the Black Knights held on and won. It’s a positive start to the new Jeff Monken era.

ArmySports.com Top Stories