The Army Black Knights lost to the FCS Fordham Rams 37-35 in its 2015 season opener Friday night at Michie Stadium. Army's defense had no answers for Fordam's star running back Chase Edmonds. Edmonds ran for 110 yards and three touchdowns. He added another 140 receiving yards on six receptions. Army sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw made his first start career and ran for 143 yards and scored two touchdowns. Bradshaw threw for 107 yards and two more scores for the Black Knights.
Fordham ended the first half with a field goal to take a 27-21 half time lead. The Rams increased their lead to 37-29 on Edmonds' third touchdown and a two-point conversion off a busted extra point. Army answered with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Edgar Poe to cut it to 37-35. Bradshaw's rush attempt on the two-point conversion was stopped short when he missed his pitch read and was tackled for a loss. Fordham recovered the onside kick with 2:32 left in the game.
The Black Knights had the ball back one last time but turned it over on downs to end the game after Joe Walker dropped a fourth down pass in the flat. Fordham beat Army for the first time in five tries. Army has now lost two of their last three games against FCS opponents under Jeff Monken. Fordham out-gained Army 445-389 in yards.
PASSING OFFENSE: C
Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw completed 6-of-14 passes for 107 passing yards with 2 touchdowns. He had what proved to be a costly interception just before the end of the first half. Kelvin White came in late and completed one of two passes. He made a nice throw for 26 yards to Xavier Moss who had moved to wide receiver for the final series.
Bradshaw's first career pass was an 8-yard touchdown reception to slotback Joe Walker (2 rec., 14 yards). Walker dropped the last throw of the game in the flat on fourth down as Army turned ball over on downs. Fellow slotback John Trainor made a nice catch for 28-yards in traffic as Ahmad pass led him into the Ram safety but he held on. Ahmad failed to read the safety on a pass in the last minute of the first half and was picked off. That led to a field goal for the Rams. Edgar Poe made a 27-yard touchdown catch where he outfought the Rams cornerback for the ball. Plebe slotback Tyler Campbell had a five yard reception that was short of the first down.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C
The Black Knights ran for 256 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns. Bradshaw led Army with 143 rushing yards on twenty carries and scored two touchdowns. Bradshaw ran hard, broke arm tackles and showed good speed. Ahmad missed a number of his option reads especially in the second half as the Rams keyed on him. He should have left the ball with Matt Giachinta on the belly dive when he kept it and was dropped for a loss early in the fourth quarter and Army was forced to punt. Bradshaw should have pitched on the two point attempt near the end of the game. The good news is Ahmad Bradshaw has ability but Army fans will have to deal with these growing pains especially early this year.
Fordham focused on taking away the fullback dive playing the old standard wishbone defense. Matt Giachinta (3 att., 10 yards) scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Aaron Kemper (6 att., 36 yards) picked up 28-yards on third-and-12 but did little else. Direct plebe Jordan Ashbery (5 att., 56 yards) just missed a touchdown when the replay official correctly ruled him out of bounds. Ashberry showed good speed off the edge. Slotback Joe Walker ran four times for 27 yards. John Trainor made his first start (3 att., 19 yards) had a nice run on a reverse. He must have had first game nerves when he dropped a pitch earlier in the game. That's the first time I can remember him dropping a ball after watching him play since USMAPS. The offensive line had a disappointing game and at times the blocking left a lot to be desired. They never established the fullback dive which shouldn't happen against an FCS opponent.
PASSING DEFENSE: F
The Black Knights secondary had a terrible game. Against a FCS quarterback making his first start they allowed Kevin Anderson to complete 15-of-23 attempts for 322 passing yards. Anderson had two sure touchdown passes dropped by Phazahn Odom.
Senior Chris Carnegie (6 tackles, sack, PD) was the only member of the secondary to play well. He made a nice play just before the end of the first half breaking up what would have been a touchdown pass in the end zone. Steven Johnson (3 tackles) made his first start at cornerback and didn't play well missing a few tackles and playing soft in coverage. The play of the safeties was awful. Rhyan England (6 tackles, PD) was literally run over a few times and caught out of position failing to cover the deep middle. Rhyan allowed completions to Chase Edmonds underneath to turn into some big plays. England should have picked off the pass he broke up. Xavier Moss (4 tackles) took bad angles to the ball at times in his start at strong safety and missed assignments. He was beat by Phazahn Odom who dropped a sure touchdown pass. Moss showed his speed running down Chase Edmonds on an 87-yard pass play to save a touchdown. Army didn't force a punt in the first half. Sophomore SAM OLB Bayle Wolf (3 tackles, sack, FF) sacked Anderson and forced a fumble which Andrew King recovered to set up Army's first touchdown. Defensive end John Voit (6 tackles, sack) posted a sack. What made this performance even worse is that Fordham wasn't playing great either as their inexperienced team made 11 penalties, struggled with the quarterback center shotgun snap and had two dropped touchdown passes.
RUSHING DEFENSE: D
The Black Knights run defense allowed 123 net rushing yards and four touchdowns. Inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf (9 tackles) had probably the worst game of his career as he struggled to corral Edmonds. Andrew King (6 tackles, 1/2 TFL, FR) missed tackles and was burned in coverage. Nose guard T.J. Altimala had a career high five tackles but was inconsistent. Defensive end Jordan Smith was pushed around in making three tackles. Nickle back Tevin Long (3 tackles) had a rough game and missed a number of tackles Alex Aukerman started at Rush linebacker and he didn't appear on the stat sheet. On Chase Edmonds 14-yard TD run he ran himself into a block creating a clear path to the goal line. The Black Knights looked slow and small on defense. New strong safety Xavier Moss took a terrible angle on Edmonds 46-yard run. The run defense settled down in the second half forcing five punts to keep Army in the game which is the only thing that kept this from being a "F"-Grade.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F
The special teams play was miserable. Long snapper Connor Farley air mailed a snap way over the head of punter Alex Tardieu. Alex had to run it out of end zone and take a safety. The Rams holder Joe Pavik ran in a fumbled extra point snap for a two point conversion and no Black Knight was near him. Punter Alex Tardieu had three punts for a 42.7-yard average with one placed inside the twenty yard line. Punt returner Edgar Poe returned three punts for just two yards. Poe muffed punt recovered by the Rams didn't lead to points in the fourth quarter but did cost valuable time Army needed at the end of the game. Poe should have fair caught the punt. The coverage teams struggled as well. The Punt coverage team gave up a huge punt return but were bailed out by a Rams penalty. The kick coverage unit allowed a 29-yard return that probably would have been returned for a touchdown if kicker Dan Grochowski didn't make the tackle. Plebe kick returner Marcus Hyatt averaged just 16.8 on five kickoff returns. He didn't show good run vision but in fairness to him the blocking on returns was poor. To make matters worse the onside kick was poorly executed and didn't give the team a chance to make a recovery. Grochowski had six kickoffs that were all returned. The only positives were that he made all his extra points attempt. Joey Giovannelli made a nice hard tackle on the opening kickoff and Calen Holt also had a nice hit. It was hard to find positives and the special teams cost the game as they allowed four points.
Jeff Monken in the post-game said he was, “embarrassed” about Army’s performance. He blamed the coaching and himself for the loss. Who am I to argue? The Black Knights poor play and mental errors went far beyond first game jitters. Offensive coordinator Brent Davis should have seen his unit do a lot more. Fordham's defense was in the old vanilla wishbone defensive set that an efficient spread option attack should take apart. He has done a nice job coaching Bradshaw who was improved his ball handling from when I last saw him at USMAPS. The blocking was mediocre. Jay Bateman's defense was slow, missed many tackles and blew far too many assignments in the first half. The defense did play a lot better in the second half allowing only one touchdown and forcing five punts. The special teams units had a miserable game.
OVERALL GRADE: D
This was another Army being Army meltdown type of loss that was supposed to end with the Monken era. The offense should have had a lot more yards playing against an FCS opponent using the old wishbone defense which is an easy scheme to attack. The defense looked slow and missed too many tackles. The special teams play was a disaster and cost the game. You can't chalk this up to first game jitters or inexperience because the FCS Rams were replacing even more starters than Army.
Army Report Card: Fordham
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