The Air Force Falcons defeated the Army Black Knights 23-6 at a sold-out Michie Stadium to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson hit tight end Garrett Griffin for a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter to take a commanding ten point lead in what was a defensive struggle. Will Conant kicked three field goals as Air Force's defense limited Army to 169 yards of total offense. The Falcons lead the series against Army 34-14-1 and have won 16 of the last 18 in the series. Army’s record drops to 2-6.
PASSING OFFENSE: F
Angel Santiago completed 2-of-11 passes for just 20 passing yards. Angel was under constant pressure and had to throw away a number of passes. His first two passes to open the game were out of bounds as the receivers were covered.
He should have checked down to an open Larry Dixon at the marker on the second pass out of the end zone but that play was ugly from the start. Center Matt Huguenberg bowled the shotgun snap and Santiago had to scoop it off the ground and scramble to avoid three defenders.
He scrambled for 32 yards off a broken pass play the next series and scrambled away from pressure as he missed Kelvin White who tried to pull in the pass while dragging his feet inside the five yard line but the pass was too far off the mark.
Santiago completed his two passes to Raymond Maples for a total of 20 yards. Edgar Poe had a chance on a reception near the goal line but he allowed the Falcon defensive back to make a play. There was holding on the play by Army anyway. The offensive line could not pass protect and Santiago had to scramble and throw off balance which highlighted his lack of arm strength.
A.J. Schurr completed 1-of-2 passes for 27 yards. Slotback Tony Giovannelli was nearly knocked out after he was hit and fumbled. Schurr was also sacked. The Army quarterbacks were sacked
four times for a loss of 24 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F
The Black Knights ran for a season low 122 yards, averaged 3.2 yards per carry and didn't score. The staff decided to start two freshman on the right side of the line, Moreau at left guard over Shumaker and had converted defensive end Ryan Alexander at left tackle. There were nine offensive linemen I saw play before I stopped counting in the first half alone. The results were predictably miserable. They failed to block anyone all day.
Angel Santiago (14 att., 33 yards) led the team in rushing with just 33 yards. He actually had 32 yards off a scramble but was sacked for a loss three times. Raymond Maples (2 att, 27 yards) had a 26-yard run off a counter when both Baggett and Maples lined up in the backfield. It was the counter that had given Air Force so much trouble against Army the previous three years.
B-back Larry Dixon ran 10 times for a season low 13 yards. He had no running room as the Falcons took away the fullback dive.
Tony Giovannelli had four carries for 24 yards. Terry Baggett once again had just two carries for 9 yards. Matt Giachinta was able to get a first down on the second half field goal with a five yard run.
PASSING DEFENSE: D
The Black Knights allowed Pearson to complete 8-of 12 passes (66.7%) for two touchdowns and an interception. Cornerback Josh Jenkins (4 tackles, INT) made a great pick and showed his burst to the ball. His 31-yard return set up Army's first field goal. Jenkins was later called for pass interference on a very questionable penalty against Robinette.
True freshman Rhyan England (9 tackles, TFL) was beat for both touchdown passes. England fell to all fours and badly missed tackling tight end Garrett Griffin on his 54-yard touchdown pass.
It was a bad play. England was beat on play action near the goal line by Griffin for two yard touchdown at the goal line.
Chris Carnegie (6 tackles, PD) broke up a long pass. He was beat a few times by Air Forces talented receiver Jalen Robinette but his coverage wasn't that bad. Hayden Pierce (11 tackles, PD) played one of his better games this season.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A
The Black Knights defense allowed 242 rushing yards as they gave up 3.9 yards per carry and no rushing touchdown. They held the Falcons below their season average.
Inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf (17 tackles, 3 TFL, INT) had a tremendous game and was the reason the Black Knights were able to limit the Air Force running game. James Kelly (8 tackles) played well and did a nice job against the option. Andrew King went out on the first play and freshman Scott Washle (7 tackles) did a solid job after being thrown into a tough spot.
Stephen Ricciardi (7 tackles) and Mike Ugenyi (1 tackle) teamed up to stop the Falcons on fourth-and-2. Nose tackle Richard Glover (7 tackles) did an excellent job in the middle.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Dan Grochowski hit two of three field goal attempts from over forty yards on a windy day. Alex Tardieu was busy with six punts for a 37.7-yard average. His first punt was a shanked 23-yard punt that helped set up Air Force first field goal. He did get off a 52-yard punt. It was a tough day to punt in the wind. Josh Jenkins had two kickoff returns for 24 yards. Xavier Moss replaced Jenkins and lost a yard on one punt return attempt. Kyle Riccardi and Adison Holstein both had nice hits on a kickoff returns. Kelvin white did a nice job converting the fake punt.
Jeff Monken's used the off week to retool his offensive line and it didn't work. They ran for only 122 yards. Last year this same backfield ran for 308 rushing yards against the Falcons. His fake punt helped change momentum for a series.
Offensive coordinator Brent Davis had a poor game and was unable to establish any rhythm. He needs to settle on an offensive line. They averaged 338 rushing yard the first five games and just 222 rushing yards the last three games. The offense has fallen apart. Seven of the eleven possessions ran four plays or less. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman defense had his best game this year and he had his unit well prepared for Air Force's attack as they held them below their season point average.
OVERALL GRADE: D
Army has gone backwards on offense the last three games. If they have to rely on this defense, which played its best game last week, then the Black Knights will not win another game this season. Any positives from the defense's effort was ruined by terrible run blocking and lack of offense. This same backfield ran for 308 yards and four touchdowns against AF last season. The previous three years they had averaged 321 yards against the Falcons. Air Force is improved but rushing for 122 yards is a pathetic effort for an option team. This team has no chance to win if it can't run the ball.
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