The Army Black Knights (2-7) offense was shut down by the Air Force Falcons (6-3) in a 20-3 loss in Colorado Springs. Air Force's defense limited Army to 169 yards of total offense. Air Force Falcon quarterback Karson Roberts threw for 156 yards and two scores both to Garrett Griffin. Air Force took a 10-0 lead into halftime after a scoreless first quarter. Army was only able to get on the board when Daniel Grochowski drilled a 47-yard field goal. It was a defensive struggle early. The Black Knights have not scored an offensive touchdown against fellow service academy teams since Jeff Monken became head coach. The Falcons lead the series against Army 35-14-1 and have won 17 of the last 19 games in the series.
PASSING OFFENSE: D
Ahmad Bradshaw was just 2-of-8 passing for 45 yards and was sacked twice. He overthrew DeAndre Bell deep on his only pass attempt in the first half. I'm surprised Army didn't try to pass more and waited until the fourth quarter. The Falcons were playing press coverage on receivers and slotbacks and the box being stacked. Bradshaw connected with wide receiver Edgar Poe on 33-yard pass into AF territory in the fourth quarter. It was his best throw of the day. Poe made a nice adjustment to haul in the pass. Later in the same drive Bradshaw hit Poe right in the hands thirty yards down the field but he dropped the ball.
Bradshaw was forced to pass once Army was down 20-3. Ahmad under threw Matt Giachinta under intense pressure. After a first down he had a miscommunication on a route with Nick Black and the ball was way overthrown. Bradshaw missed Black when he bounced a pass on fourth down but the drive was kept alive by a Falcon penalty. Bradshaw hit Black for a 12-yard gain on a button hook to move the chains. Bradshaw had a pass battled down at the line, then he was sacked. On fourth-and-22 he threw a jump ball to Edgar Poe off his back foot while being hit. Poe was clearly grabbed but I guess the referees just wanted to go home and they didn't call it. Army probably didn't pass much until it had no choice because its offensive line struggled to protect Bradshaw and allowed two sacks.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F
The Black Knights ran for a pathetic 124 yards, averaged 2.8 yards per carry and had no touchdowns. The Black Knights had only six rushing first downs. The offensive line was completely outplayed at the point of attack by the Falcons. Air Force has been playing against the Navy spread, which is what Army runs, for over a decade. AF played man defense on the receivers and slotbacks and stacked the box. They used a mesh charge, run stunts and at times timed quarterback cadence to have linebackers shoot the gaps. It confused the Army offensive line and took away both the fullbacks and slotbacks most of the day.
Ahmad Bradshaw’s (20 att., 42 yds.) longest run of the day for 16 yards set up the Black Knights field goal. Bradshaw took a beating but did a good job in avoiding any turnover even though he fumbled once. Bradshaw’s decisions were solid despite much of the postgame banter. The slotbacks were covered most of the game. The Black Knights were just outplayed up front. Fullbacks Aaron Kemper ran for a team leading 47 yards on 14 carries. FB Matt Giachinta (2 att., 5 yds.) didn't see many touches. At slotback Jordan Asberry ran five times for 20 yards. John Trainor was shutout. He had a costly false start penalty. Nick Black made a nice cut on a six yard run. Christian Drake ran for three yards and Tyler Campbell had a one yard run. A holding penalty on center Matt Hugenberg wiped out an Ahmad Bradshaw 50-yard run off a scramble.
PASSING DEFENSE: F
Army was selling out to stop the Falcons running game and allowed Roberts to hit 7-of-10 passes for 156 passing yards and two scores. Rhyan England (8 tackles, PD) knocked away a third down pass to tight end Garrett Griffin in first half to force a punt. England fell on a 59-yard completion to Garrett Brown when the pass was perfectly placed over him. Brandon Jackson (5 tackles, PD) ran Brown down but AF scored on touchdown on drag route by the tight end across the formation that no one covered. Safety Xavier Moss (7 tackles) was lucky Roberts overthrew a wide open Garrett Griffin when he bit on play action. Tevin Long (2 tackles) was beat on Griffin's 23-yard touchdown reception to close out the scoring. Cornerback Chris Carnegie had good coverage all game and Roberts didn't test him much. Army had no sacks as the Falcons haven't allowed a sack all year.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A
The Black Knights allowed 196 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per carry and no touchdowns on the ground. Army held the Falcons to 137 yards below their average and allowed just 9 rushing first downs.
Andrew King (11 tackles, TFL) tackled Bryan Driskell for a 2-yard loss to end the third quarter and force a field goal. Jeremy Timpf had ten tackles and dropped Jacobi Owens on third-and-1 from the four yard line to force the opening AF field goal. Defensive tackle Jordan Smith played well and shut down the run to his side much of the game with six tackles. Nose tackle TJ Altimalala played well with three tackles holding the point of attack. Alex Aukerman made four tackles and had a shoestring tackle to stop what would have been a first down run.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Kicker Dan Grochowski hit a 47-yard field goal. He had touchbacks on both kickoffs. Punter Alex Tardieu had a busy day. He averaged 41.2 yards on eight punts. Tardieu hit a 52-yarder in the high altitude which was his second longest of the season. Tardieu had two of his punts downed inside the five yard line. He has a career high four placed inside the 20-yard line. Edgar Poe had one punt return for a four yard gain. The coverage units, thanks to the kicker and punter, didn't allow any return yards. It was a field position game for most of the contest and the special teams did their jobs. Air Force's Scott Hester took the standard cheap shot chippy penalty on Mike McFadden which was an offsetting penalty. The Air Force Falcons can't help themselves.
Jeff Monken’s team played hard and their game plan was sound but they were out-executed. I don't disagree with Monken's decision to play for field position rather than going for it on fourth down in the first half. It was only odd because it has been Monken's nature to be more aggressive there. I didn't have an issue with Monken not calling a time out to force AF's Luke Strebel to kick into the wind. Strebel has missed only one kick all year and in Colorado Springs high altitude he's virtually automatic. I think Monken figured he would need the timeout on defense if Army was going to mount a comeback.
Brent Davis had a sound game plan but nothing worked. AF was in man most of the game over the slots. Davis tried to use heavy formations to counteract the numbers disadvantage. It didn't work. AF beat Army all day at the point of attack and on the perimeter. I was surprised he didn't try a few more passes but in the fourth quarter it was clear the Black Knights struggled against Air Force's pass rush and their receivers didn't gain much separation. Davis had to match up against a defense who knows how to stop his scheme and had better players. Jay Bateman's defense was well prepared and did an excellent job of slowing down the Falcons running game but they were hurt by play action passes.
OVERALL GRADE: C
Jeff Monken is now 0-3 in service academy games. Army has scored 17 or fewer points in 6 of 9 games. The Black Knights have failed to score a touchdown in two games. Jay Bateman's defense has played a lot better than the last few years and deserves better. Army hasn't scored an offensive touchdown in any of the games against its fellow service academies. That has to change.