With the two teams knowing each other so well, and with both wanting to run variations of the same system, it was always going to be a slog of a game if the defenses got on top early.
Here is a look back at how the three keys played out on Saturday:
1) Offense and defense together – Fail
Once again Army let a stand out performance from one of the two primary units go to waste when the other frankly didn’t show up for the game. While the Army defense held Air Force, who had scored 100 points over the last two games, to just 10 points in each half, the offense could not get anything going at all against a smothering Falcons defense. The Army offense was unable to get the ball inside the Air Force 20-yard line at any point in the game and had to settle for a Daniel Grochowski 47-yard field goal to provide the Black Knights only points. It was a bitterly disappointing display from an offensive unit that had 10 days to prepare for the Air Force defense due to the bye week.
2) Win the turnover battle - Fail
The positive here is that the Army offense did not turn the ball over all game, something of a rarity this season. The negative is that the defense, as well as it played, was unable to force a turnover and thus the offense was never able to get the ball with outstanding field position. With the futility of the offense it was going to be up to the defense to win this game for Army. Turnovers are often hard against a team that runs the ball as well as Air Force does, but a single forced and recovered fumble on one of the Falcons 47 carries would have changed the direction and momentum of this game. Army needs to develop more of an aggressive turnover forcing identity as the season winds down.
3) Win the rushing battle - Fail
This was another fail that was nothing to do with the play of the defense. The Air Force rushing game was the second best in the nation coming in and averaged 353.4 yards per game this season. On Saturday the assignment sound Army defense limited that rushing attack to just 196 yards rushing and no touchdowns on the ground. The leading rusher for Air Force, D.J. Johnson, had only 47 yards on 11 carries. The Army offense on the other hand just could not get anything going at all. The Black Knights rushed for just 124 yards on 44 carries, which is an average of under 3-yards per carry. With a passing offense that doesn’t really exist, the Black Knights were 3-of-14 through the air, this rushing number needed to be at least doubled for the team to have a shot at a win.