The Army Black Knights (3-1) fell for the first time this season as the team lost in overtime at Buffalo on Saturday evening. It was a tough and frustrating loss for the Black Knights as they dominated for large periods without ever scoring enough points to pull away from the Bulls. With a bye week to lick their wounds, Army will hopefully learn from this loss and come back as a stronger team in the final two-thirds of the season. Here is the report card.
PASSING OFFENSE: D
The Army passing offense is usually just adequate, but against Buffalo it was bad. The three Black Knights players who attempted passes combined to go 4 of 10 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and a Chris Carter interception thrown. That averages out at just 4.8 yards per attempt and that is not good when your passing game is supposed to be an out of balance attack that hits deep strikes as aopposed to an efficiency attack. Ahmad Bradshaw is an outstanding runner, but his arm has to be more of a weapon.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-
Army was able to rush for almost 400 yards against the Bulls at an average of almost 6 yards per carry. Bradshaw rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown from the quarterback spot, Andy Davidson at fullback added another 80 yards, and six different players had rushes of 10 yards or longer. Army also completely controlled the clock and held the ball for over 36 minutes. Army though was just flat bad on third down (6-of-17), which is unusual for a triple-option attack. Army also failed to convert a couple of fourth downs that led to huge momentum shifts in the game.
PASSING DEFENSE: C
Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson has the "quarterback of the future" label hung around his neck, but Army gave the Bulls freshman too much respect on Saturday. Jackson opened the game strongly and completed 10 of his first 13 passes. While he slowed a little over the course of the game his night finished with a 20 of 31 for 178 yards with one touchdown and one interception line. His yardage could have been much more impressive had he not seen two deep bombs dropped by open receivers. The Army passing defense had been good to this point, but it was not good enough against the Bulls.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B
The Army rush defense was probably the best Black Knights unit on the field on Saturday. Buffalo was held to just 87 yards rushing on 33 carries or just 2.6 yards per attempt. The only frustration here is that Bulls quarterback Jackson was able to score twice on the ground and that each time it was on 3rd and goal from the 1-yard line. Jackson though is a beast at over six and a half feet tall, so if he gets that close it is going to be almost impossible to stop the sneak or a dive.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Special teams absolutely killed the Black Knights against Buttalo. It all started on the very first kickoff where some suspect coverage allowed the Bulls returner to make it all the way to the Army kicker before he was tackled at the end of a 38-yard return. That tackle injured Mitchell Howard and the Black Knights kicker played no further part in the game. That obviously contributed to the end of game meltdown where backup kicker Blake Wilson missed a 34-yard field goal that would have won it at the end of regulation and then missed a 43 yarder at the end of the Black Knights first, and only, overtime possession.
Army was put in a bad situation given the injury to Mitchell, but Jeff Monken did not have his best coaching game of the season. With the Black Knights up 7-0 and facing 4th and 4 at the Buffalo 37, Monken decided to call a pass play to try to extend the drive. While Army's punting unit has not been amazing in 2016, punting from here would have allowed the team to pin Buffalo way back in its own end. The Black Knights also turned the ball over on downs at a critical time in the fourth quarter when Bradshaw was stopped for one yard when he needed two at the Buffalo 35 yard line.
OVERALL GRADE: C
Army did enough to win this game in so many different ways. The outgained the Bulls by 444 yards to 265 yards. They held the ball for 36:24 compared to 23:36. They had 21 first downs to the Bulls 13. To have the advantage in so many areas and still lose is something Army would have done last year. Let's just hope that this is an aberration toward a much healthier trend of victories going forward.null