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Three keys revisited: Army vs. Navy

The 116th Army-Navy game ended up being one for the ages as the Black Knights valiantly fought until the end before coming up short against the Mids. The game averaged 7.13 million viewers, making it the most watched contest between the two academies in over 20 years as Army fell to 2-10 in a season that the team has been far better than that record would indicate.

With Navy graduating the bulk of its starters, especially on offense, Army can use this game as a fuel to come back even stronger in 2016.

Here is a look back at the three keys:

1) Rushing domination - Fail

Army knew coming into this contest that they had to attack the rushing game on both fronts. Offensively the Black Knights had to concentrate on getting fullback Aaron Kemper going in order to keep the Navy defense honest inside and hopefully open up the edges for a perimeter attack. This strategy worked just ok as Kemper was able to pick up 38 yards on just seven carries. Ideally, Kemper would have doubled his carries and opened things up more. This was especially true as quarterback Chris Carter was able to pick up just 18 yards on 22 carries, showing the off tackle runs were not available.

On the flip side, the Army defense stood up very well against a Navy offense which had come into the game averaging over 330 yards per game on the ground. Army was able to hold this potent attack to just 199 yards rushing, primarily by completely taking the slot backs out of the equation. The Navy wide runners accounted for just a single yard on the day on just two carries. A lot of this was due to the pitch being taken away each and every time Keenan Reynolds carried the ball. Reynolds picked up 136 yards and two touchdowns himself, but a number of drives were ended because Navy was unable to get the ball to the quick outside backs.

2) Quickly adapt to whoever starts at quarterback – Pass

The expectation all week was that Carter would be thrown in at the deep end in this one, just like Reynolds was for Navy four years ago. Army had been practicing all week with Carter as the guy and to a large extent it was a successful choice. Carter was 9-of-15 for 208 yards and a touchdown through the air, constantly showing great touch on his throws to hit receivers on the sideline. The problem was that Carter, and the team as a whole, tried to force too much late in the game. Carter had problems with a number of snaps and additionally threw a bad interception into double coverage with the game on the line. Army was able to get the ball back but then was doomed by a trick play that went wrong. It says something about the level of the freshman quarterback’s play however that the trick play seemed unnecessary as Carter had the Black Knights driving when it occurred.

3) Win the battle of special teams – Push

The special teams battle went pretty much the Black knights way until kicker Daniel Grochowski missed a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. This miss offset much of what Army had done right to that point in the game and seemed to be the catalyst for a number of mistakes as the clock started to wind down. Other than that the special teams play was solid to good. Edgar Poe had a 50-yard punt return while Navy was unable to return a single Army punt during the game as they were well covered by the gunners. Army seemed to have at least equal field position to the Mids for most of the game until the three turnovers in the fourth quarter completely killed any chance of an upset.

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