The Army Black Knights (2-5) struggled to defeat the FCS Bucknell Bison (3-3) 21-14 at Michie Stadium on Saturday. Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw was injured on the opening drive. He was replaced by senior A.J. Schurr who was picked off twice in the first half by Bucknell's Conner Golden. The second one set up Will Carter 35-yard touchdown reception off a screen pass. Bucknell led 6-0 after Army's Jordan Smith blocked the extra point. Army answered right back to take a 7-6 lead with 1:52 left in the half. Schurr had a fumble that was overturned on review. A.J. then found an Edgar Poe for 25 yards to set up his own three yard touchdown run. Bucknell responded late in the first half as R.J. Niti converted a fourth-and-17 play by hitting Bobby Kaslander for a 27-yard pass completion. He then completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to fullback Andrew Owers with 26 seconds left in the half. The successful two-point conversion gave Bucknell a 14-7 lead at the half. Schurr led a 12-play, 72-yard drive and scored from three yards out to tie the score late in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter Schurr connected with Edgar Poe, who made a great leaping catch of the underthrown pass, and ran it in for a 68-yard touchdown to give Army the lead with 4:44 left in the game Chris Carnegie intercepted R.J. Nitti on Bucknell's ensuing drive to clinch the Army victory.
PASSING OFFENSE: C-
Ahmad Bradshaw made his fifth start of the year. He completed both his pass attempts before leaving the game with an injury. He opened the game with 7-yard completion in flat to wide receiver Edgar Poe (3 rec., 100 yrds,1 TD) Bradshaw then hit wide receiver DeAndre Bell who broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage for 7-yard gain on third-and-4 play.
A.J. Schurr replaced the injured Bradshaw at quarterback and on his first snap forced a skinny post pass to Nick Black. It was picked by Bucknell's Connor Golden who made a great pick but Schurr threw the ball into double coverage and Black was never open. The next series Schurr forced another pass to a covered receiver and Golden nearly picked it off again. AJ’s next pass was just as ugly. Bucknell's Connor Golden picked off Schurr for second time. It was a terrible throw down the center of the field to Kelvin White forced into double coverage. At the same time John Trainor was running wide open on a wheel route and would have scored if Schurr threw to him. Schurr settled down after his second interception was converted into a touchdown and a 6-0 Bucknell lead. On the following touchdown drive he threw a nice pass to Edgar Poe running a button hook and the wide open Poe had a rare dropped pass. Poe then caught a 25-yard pass on a third- and-10 down to the the 3-yard line. Poe ran a nice post corner route that left him wide open and to set up the Black Knights first touchdown. It was Schurr's most accurate throw of the day.
On the first touchdown drive of the second half Schurr finally checked down and hit Jordan Asberry for a seven yard gain rather than forcing the ball down the field on covered go routes. In the fourth quarter Schurr overthrew an open DeAndre Bell on a crossing route during a three-and-out series. On the next series Schurr underthrew Edgar Poe deep but the 6-4 Poe was able to out leap the much smaller Bucknell defender and snatch the ball away to race 68-yards for the game winning touchdown. Army's offensive line did a good job in pass protection against Bucknell's 4-2-5 scheme that was averaging four sacks a game. Schurr didn't throw the ball well but he did hit two passes that led to touchdowns and the fact the line allowed no sacks gets them a grudging C- grade.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
Army ran for only 263 rushing yards, averaged 4.3 yards per carry and scored two rushing touchdowns against an FCS defense. The Bison are fundamentally sound and good tacklers but this was a mediocre performance by the Black Knights running the ball. Two of the scores were set up by big passing plays not by being able to run the ball.
Quarterback A.J. Schurr ran 31 times for just 99 yards and scored a touchdown. Schurr missed a number of reads and playing with a thigh bruise he looked to lack some of his usual burst on his runs. Schurr was lucky that his last fumble was overturned. AJ made a terrible pitch behind John Trainor that was nearly a disaster but Trainor recovered the ball. The huge loss led to another three and out series. I will give some credit to Schurr who played when he was less than 100%. Ahmad Bradshaw ran seven times for 28 yards before he was knocked out of the game on the opening drive.
Slotback Jordan Asberry ran four times for 56 yards. Asberry made a nice move and cut on a 31-yard run during the final drive to close out the game. He had a 19-yard run on Army's second scoring drive.
The fullbacks didn't find much running room as Matt Gianchinta ran eight times for 29 yards and Drue Harris ran eight times for 23 yards. Aaron Kemper missed the game with an injury.
The starting slot backs were underutilized. John Trainor showed nice patience to set up his blocks on his 22 yard run. Joe Walker had a quiet day (2 att., 6 yards) but did his usual solid job blocking for others. Army's young offensive line struggled to sustain offense. They had only 14 rushing first downs and had to punt five times against an FCS defense.
PASSING DEFENSE: C
Bucknell quarterback R.J. Nitti completed 17-of-33 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Army was able to create some pressure in the second half but never sacked Nitti.
Brandon Jackson (4 tackles, PD) made a freshman mistake on the screen pass to Will Carter when he gave up outside leverage and allowed Carter to race down the sideline for a touchdown. Jackson needed to turn that play inside. Cornerback Chris Carnegie (3 tackle, Int, 3 PD) had his starting game streak stopped when he and Jackson were late for a team meeting. Carnegie made up for it once he was in the game. Chris broke up a third down pass to force a punt. Late in the fourth quarter he had a huge interception to end the Bison's last drive and help seal the win.
Tevin Long (5 tackles, TFL) allowed Andrews Owers four yard touchdown reception before the half. The fullback scrapped across the line in front of Long and I'm not sure why Tevin didn't recognize it and run full speed to cover him.
Safety Xavier Moss (3 tackles) made a nice hit to break up a pass and force the Bison to settle for a missed field goal. Moss should have provided deep help on the 27-yard completion on fourth-and-17 down to the Army seven yard line that set up Bucknell's second touchdown. Moss was called for a pass interference penalty as well. Rhyan England returned to the lineup and made three tackles. T.J. Altimala had three tackles but missed a chance to sack Nitti and allowed him to complete a pass and move the chains late in the third quarter.
RUSHING DEFENSE: D
Army allowed backup Bucknell running back Matt DelMauro to run for 105 yards and a 5.8 average per carry. DelMauro entered the game with just 173 rushing yards, a 4.2 average and a touchdown in five games. Bucknell did a good job against Army's linebackers. Jeremy Timpf
led the team with six tackles. Timpf teamed with Alex Aukerman (4 tackles) to stop Matt DelMauro short of a first down on Third-and-2 on Bucknell's first possession. Andrew King (5 tackles ) had a nice open field tackle on Will Carter to stop him short of the first down but allowed DelMauro to break free for productive runs on both touchdown drives when he was sealed off. Jordan Smith made five tackles, 1 1/2 for a loss and blocked an extra point. On a Bucknell broken play Smithand Tevin Long teamed up to drop Nitti for 4-yard loss and forced a punt. Plebe linebacker Calen Holt made a nice open field tackles of Nitti on a quarterback scramble to force a punt. Army only allowed five rushing first downs but they allowed too many long runs to a limited running back. They were lucky at times. Bucknell killed their own drives with 14 penalties that cost them 105 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Punter Alex Tardieu averaged 35.2 yards on five punts and placed two inside the 20-yard line. He hit his first punt 45 yards but badly shanked a punt that traveled just 24 yards even with a friendly bounce in the fourth quarter. Kicker Dan Grochowski had a touchback on his four kickoffs. Freshman Marcus Hyatt had a 27-yard kickoff return. The Nick Black experiment on punt returns should be over. Black fielded this first punt but was unable to spin away for any yardage. The disaster then began when Black fumbled the next punt and was lucky to recover it. He should have fair caught the ball. Black then attempted to field a bouncing punt and it hit off him and was recovered by Bucknell. Edgar Poe replaced him and returned a punt five yards. The coverage teams were solid. John Voit blocked a field goal and Jordan Smith blocked an extra point attempt. Both blocks were on low kicks by Bucknell's struggling kicking game. Nick Black's struggles on punt returns didn't cost any points so the grade is a C+ for saving four points by blocking kicks.
Jeff Monken went against his normal tendency by passing up a chance to go for it on fourth-and-2 at Bucknell's 42 in the second quarter but it made sense since it was a scoreless game at the time and his defense had played well. There are still way too many unforced errors and poor fundamentals exhibited every game. The bigger question for Monken is how to turnaround a FBS program that found itself athletically in an even match up with a middling FCS team. He should have removed Nick Black on punt returns after his first drop not his second.
Offensive coordinator Brent Davis probably shouldn't have asked A.J. Schurr to throw on his first play once he entered the game. Davis needs to straighten out his offensive line which has started the same players the last three games and is woefully inconsistent at run blocking.
Defensive Coordinator Jay Bateman's defense did pitch a second half shutout but benefited as much from Bucknell's mistakes than they did from making plays. Bucknell ran the ball too easily at times. Army’s defense did stop Bucknell on 10 of its 12 third down conversion attempts.
OVERALL GRADE: C
It’s a win. I never dismiss a win because winning isn't easy. The bigger concern is how much Army struggled with a 3-3 FCS team. Bucknell isn't used to playing in front of such a big crowd and its use of a silence cadence helped caused many of their 14 penalties. Army and Bucknell looked like physical equals on the field which shouldn't be the case. It shows how far this program has to go to improve. Enjoy the win. It will be hard to find another one this year if Army continues to be unable to sustain offense running the ball.