With heavy rain making the contest a slippery and sloppy affair, the Black Knights were only a couple of plays away from upsetting the Big Ten school and really making a statement. As it is Army will have to settle for pushing Penn State close with many positives still to be taken from the game.
Here is a look back at the three keys for the game:
1) Rush the ball - Fail
This is a really hard aspect of the game to grade this week. Army, without its starting quarterback, was able to move the ball on the ground against the Penn State defense. The Black Knights rushed for 261 yards with quarterback A.J. Schurr scoring twice on the ground to add to his 74 yards rushing. Army also got almost 100 yards out of the fullbacks, keeping the Penn State linebackers inside and opening up opportunities for the slot backs. All this is good.
The problem is that with all that good stuff the Black Knights fumbled the ball seven (7!!!) times. Three of those fumbles resulted in turnovers. Those three turnovers resulted in 10 points for the Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lions won the game by six points. That is why the running game simply cannot be classed as being a positive on Saturday.
2) Shut down the run - Pass
Penn State did indeed enter the game without its top two running backs as neither Saquon Barkley nor Akeel Lynch was able to shake off an injury in time to make the start. The primary ball carrier on the day ended up being freshman Nick Scott who rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. In total Penn State rushed for just 108 yards on their 34 carries, which comes out at just 3.2 yards per rushing attempt. Even with back up running backs in the game the Penn State line would be expected to dominate up front and open up holes against an undersized Army defensive unit. The Black Knights front seven, however, stood up to be counted and never let the Nittany Lions get rolling
3) Bend but don’t break on defense - Pass
If we are being honest Army didn’t even need to bend that much. The Nittany Lions only produced 264 yards of total offense a week after Army gave up over 450 yards of offense to Eastern Michigan. For whatever reason, be it design or a worry about the skill position players with the conditions, the Nittany Lions only really opened it up near the end of the fourth quarter. If you take away the two long passes on the same drive by quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the first a 44-yard bomb to Chris Godwin followed immediately by a 33-yard touchdown to Mike Gesicki, then the game goes very differently.