The Army Black Knights (5-3) did what they had to against a better than expected ACC opponent to move one game away from bowl eligibility. Here is a look at the report card to what Army did right, and what it did wrong, against the Demon Deacons.
PASSING OFFENSE: C+
The passing offense wasn't perfect, but Ahmad Bradshaw and his receivers were good through the air against Wake Forest. It was important that Army was able to pass the ball as the Wake defense was as strong against the run as expected for three-quarters, before crumbling in the fourth. The key passing play saw Bradshaw hooking up with Edgar Poe for a 43-yard touchdown to put Army up 7-0 in the first quarter. It was an outstanding play call after a bad Wake Forest punt had seen Army get the ball inside the Demon Deacons half.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B
The numbers are far from spectacular, but the Black Knights rushing offense took over the game in the fourth quarter to put Wake away for good. Army was down 10-7 when they got the ball at their own 12-yard line with under a minute to go in the third. That is when Bradshaw and his running backs took over, marching 88 yards in nine plays to put Army ahead by four points. The Black Knights next drive (after a Wake turnover) saw Army go 60 yards in 12 plays for another touchdown against a worn down Deacs defense. Sometimes it is not all about gaudy numbers, it is instead about controlling the ball for 36 minutes and getting stronger as the game goes on.
PASSING DEFENSE: A
The Black Knights passing defense was on point against a Wake Forest offensive gameplan that was trying to attack it early and often. Demon Deacons offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero seemed intent on using the deep ball, specifically the deep ball down the middle, an odd choice given that Wake is still a team that struggles offensively and that they were playing against a ball control team in the Black Knights. The strategy worked exactly once all game, a 48-yard pass to Tabari Hines on the Deacs third drive, but the very next play was an interception in the end zone (one of three picks for Army) as John Wolford missed his target.
RUSHING DEFENSE: A
Wake Forest simply abandoned the run in the second half, even though they were leading into the fourth quarter. After the break, the Deacons threw the ball 27 times and only ran it on eight occasions. Even more strangely, only three of those runs were by running backs. In total, the Demon Deacons rushed for just 123 yards on 23 carries. Quarterback Wolford had 66 of those yards as the Army rushing defense shut down the running backs early and made Wake completely one dimensional late in the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Army is continuing to win despite special teams play that fluctuates between mediocre and just plain bad. The lowlights this week were a Johnny Armstrong kickoff return touchdown for Wake that was called back on a hold (a hold that happens and isn't called on many similar returns) and another missed field goal. The field goal miss was especially ugly as it would have put Army up 3-0 early in the game and was missed from just 29 yards out. The absolute lack of faith in the kicking game then saw Army go for it on 4th-&-5 and 4th-&-12 at the back end of the first half. Those failed attempts would have been 45-yard and 47-yard field goal tries respectively.
Jeff Monken gets a lot of credit here for sticking to his gameplan even when it looked like Army was not going to be able to move the ball on Wake. The Black Knights had less than 50 yards rushing at halftime, but Monken kept the pressure on by keeping the ball on the ground and knowing that eventually, the Deacons would tire. That is exactly how the game played out as Army eventually rushed for 107 yards in the fourth quarter to put the game away,
OVERALL GRADE: B-
This was a gutsy win of the type you couldn't have imagined if you had watched the Black Knights stink up the joint just one week ago. Army had to work hard for this one and all phases of the game (other than the special teams) played their part in the Black Knights fifth victory of the season.