The Army Black Knights (2-10) ended its season with a loss to the Navy Midshipmen (10-2), 21-17 for the fourteenth consecutive year in America's Game. Army opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal by Daniel Grochowski. It was set up by a 50-yard punt return by Edgar Poe. The Mids answered two plays later with a 58-yard touchdown run by quarterback Keenan Reynolds. After both teams traded touchdowns the Black Knights took a 17-14 halftime lead after a late 39-yard touchdown pass from Chris Carter to Poe. It was the first time Army led Navy at the half since 2009. Navy defense shut down Army most of the third quarter. Navy took a 21-17 lead on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds to Jamir Tillman on a pick play that should have been a penalty. Army put together an early fourth quarter drive, but Grochowski missed a costly chip shot field goal. Chris Carter connected on some long pass plays in the fourth quarter, but three consecutive positions ended in turnovers. The game ended with senior Kelvin White launching a Hail Mary that fell incomplete in the end zone. The Midshipmen improved its lead in the all-time series to 60-49-7.
PASSING OFFENSE: B+
Army plebe quarterback Chris Carter completed 9-of-15 passes for 208 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Carter was remarkably poised as he kept Army in the game despite facing tremendous pressure from a Navy defensive line that sacked him three times. It was the most passing yards by an Army quarterback since Carson Williams in 2007.
Carter hit Edgar Poe (5 rec, 95 yds., TD) with his first throw off waggle action on the move for a 31-yard gain on the opening drive. Carter rolled out and attempted to hit tight end Kelvin White in the end zone, but it was broken up by Navy Rover Daiquan Thomasson. Carter probably should have checked down to an open Nick Black in the flat who was open near the first down as Army settled for the field goal. On the next series, he hit Poe on a 13- yard out pattern to move the chains setting up Campbell's touchdown run.
The following series Carter just missed Poe who was open on a post pattern at midfield with a long third down pass with a lineman his face. After Navy took the lead Carter tried to hit Poe deep but he was well covered by Clements and could not haul in the pass with a leaping one hand try. Two plays later Carter hit Poe for an eight yard gain and a first down on what seemed like a favorable spot. Army took the lead on a well-designed crossing route where Carter found Poe for 39-yard touchdown pass. It was a nice touch throw with Carter avoiding the rush and on the move hitting Poe in stride for a 17-14 halftime lead. On the opening series of the second half, after a penalty, Carter found Nick Black for a seven yard gain in the flat then missed Poe on a button hook that would have been short of the first down. Navy dialed up the pressure and the next three series ended with Navy sacks including one by one-time Army commit Jarvis Polu.
Carter was able to get the offense back on track when he hit Poe for a 30-yard gain. Carter hit Bell for six yards later on the drive that ended with the missed field goal. Carter connected with Bell again for 39-yards on a crossing route to Navy 33 yard line, but he fumbled the next snap and Navy recovered. The following series Carter was intercepted by Lorentez Barbour when he overthrew him forcing the ball into coverage. He missed Jordan Asberry running wide open down the seam. The next series he came back with the play he missed the series before and hit Tyler Campbell with a beautiful throw for 35-yards. Two plays later Army tried an option pass and wide receiver De Andre Bell, who was recruited as a quarterback, but his pass was picked off near the goal line. On the last series with little time left Luke Langdon showed his arm strength but fired wide of an open Poe. For the Hail Mary Monken sent in Kelvin White who avoided the rush and launched a nice Hail Mary that had a chance but fell incomplete in the end zone as it was batted down.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
Army ran for only 137 rushing yards, averaged 3.1 yards per carry and scored a touchdown. Both teams know how to defend the option and take away so much. Carter ran 22 times for 18 yards as he found little running room and was sacked three times and tackled for 35 lost yards. His longest run was just ten yards.
He did a nice job distributing the ball but the three fumbles especially the turnover after the long fourth quarter completion to Bell hurt. Carter made a mistake getting tackled for a four-yard loss on the drive where Grochowski missed the field goal by not turning the ball up and took a loss trying to make a play.
B-back Aaron Kemper led all Army running back with just 38 yards on seven carries. He almost broke his 18-yard run. Fullback Matt Gianchinta ran two times for five yards. The staff used the plebes at slotback this game with Tyler Campbell carrying four times for 36 yards and scoring his first career touchdown on a 29-yard run. He broke a tackle after picking up a great block from DeAndre Bell and Nick Black(2 att for 6 yds.) on his scoring run. Plebe slotback Christian Drake (2 att, 19 yds.)showed his speed on a 15-yard run that preceded Edgar Poe's touchdown catch. Jordan Asberry had five carries for 15 yards and was lit up a few times by Navy's defensive backs. I was surprised that slotbacks John Trainor and Joe Walker were healthy scratches as Monken opted for an all plebe slotback rotation. The Army offensive line was outplayed by the Mids in the trenches.
PASSING DEFENSE: B
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds completed 6-of-14 passes for 113 yards and a score. The Black Knights did a nice job against Navy. Reynolds started hot completing his first four throws before the Black Knights got him out of his rhythm. Cornerback Chris Carnegie (3 tackles) was called for pass interference on Jamir Tillman's nice 35-yard catch. Army saw Reynolds misfire on seven straight passes as they did a nice job in coverage. Cornerback Brandon Jackson (6 tackles, PD) jumped a route late in the first half and just missed an interception. Jeremy Timpf also nearly picked off a pass on the final Navy possession of the first half. Xavier Moss (5tackles, PD ) was illegally picked on Jamir Tillman's 50-yard touchdown catch. It should have been a Navy penalty. He had a huge hit making Demond Brown pay for his only catch.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A
Army's defense held Navy to only 199 yards and two scores. It was 131 rushing yards below Navy's season average. The Black Knights once again took away the slotbacks and forced Navy to grind it out between the tackles. Jeremy Timpf (9 tackles, TFL, PD) had his second consecutive stellar Army-Navy game. Linebacker Alex Aukerman played his best game of the year with seven tackles. T.J Altimala (6 tackles, TFL), Jordan Smith (6 tackles, PD) and Jon Voit (6 tackles, TFL) outplayed Navy up front. Andrew King (3tackles) dropped Keenan Reynolds for a loss on a third down forcing a punt. Army made Navy punt eleven times. CBS's Gary Danielson was incorrect in calling out Rhyan England for being on the outside of the blocker on Reynolds 58-yard touchdown run. England was in the proper spot covering the pitch back all game. Navy wound up with 312 yards, more than half of which came on three big plays. Reynolds also scrambled for 35 yards to set up the Navy's other score.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Kicker Daniel Grochowski made his initial 32-yard attempt on the opening drive but missed a key chip shot field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. Grochowski boomed the ball on kickoffs with three touchbacks on four attempts. Punter Alex Tardieu hit his six punts an average of 43 yards and none were returned. Marcus Hyatt returned two kickoffs for 36 yards. Edgar Poe returned three punts 53 yards. He returned the first punt 50-yards to set up the opening Army field goal. Calen Holt sprung Edgar Poe when he absolutely unloaded on a Navy defender with a devastating block. Justin Fahn probably saved a touchdown on Dishan Romine's 42-yard kick return. It was a mixed bag here with some nice plays but a few costly negative plays.
Give Jeff Monken credit for using the three weeks to have his team prepared to play this game. He made a lot of changes including going with only the plebes at slotback. I have to admit I hated the wide receiver option pass late in the fourth quarter. Carter was playing and throwing the ball well. I would have left the game in his hands. I'm surprised Monken went for the return rather than the punt block with eleven seconds left at the end of the game. Navy's punter Alex Barta bobbled the snap, but there was no pressure since the Black Knights were setting up for the return only to see Poe dropped after gaining just a yard after fielding the punt.
Offensive coordinator Brent Davis made good use of the extra time to prepare to employ heavy formations, the wishbone to create space and give the Mids defense different looks. It didn't help the running game as Army was outplayed up front but the crossing routes gave the Navy secondary fits all day. Defensive Coordinator Jay Bateman's was smart to continue to use former Army head coach Rich Ellerson defensive strategy for Navy that focuses on taking away the slotbacks. Bateman had Army's defense mix it up almost every play. They fired their corners and scrapped outside all game. His defense gave the Black Knights a chance by forcing four punts in the fourth quarter alone.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
Army was a 22 1/2 point underdog and gave a terrific ten win Navy team everything they could handle. It would have been a historic upset. The Black Knights played hard, outgained the Mids and were well prepared The late mistakes and failure to execute at key moments are issues that haunted this young team all season. The good news is there is a lot of young talent to be excited about going forward as they mature and build off this rough season.