Army Report Card: Air Force

Army Report Card: Air Force

The Army Black Knights dominated Air Force as they defeated the Falcons 41-21 at Michie Stadium for the first time since 1996. It was the Black Knights first victory over Air Force since 2005. Army ran for four touchdowns and recovered a fumble in the end zone. The Army defense held the second ranked rushing team in the nation to just 103 rushing yards and recovered or forced five turnovers.

The Army Black Knights dominated Air Force as they defeated the Falcons 41-21 at Michie Stadium for the first time since 1996. It was the Black Knights first victory over Air Force since 2005. Army ran for four touchdowns and recovered a fumble in the end zone. The Army defense held the second ranked rushing team in the nation to just 103 rushing yards and recovered or forced five turnovers. The Black Knights scored on their opening possession and took a 20-7 lead into halftime. The Black Knights shut down the Falcons in the third quarter as they extended the lead to 35-7. Air Force, which has dominated the second half of previous contests in the Rich Ellerson era, rallied to pull within two touchdowns but an errant snap which was recovered by captain Nate Combs in the end zone sealed the win. The victory will allow the Black Knights to play Navy, which has already beaten the Falcons, for the rights to the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 2005.

PASSING OFFENSE: A
Senior quarterback Trent Steelman completed 4 of 6 passes for 100 yards. Steelman was smart to throw away his first pass attempt from his own end zone to avoid a potential safety when no one was open. Two plays later he hit A-back Raymond Maples in the flat for a 53-yard reception. Maples really punished defensive back Christi Spears at the end of his run. Give credit to wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence who made a nice block on the play. Steelman completed a 17-yard pass to Lawrence to Air Force 7 that gave the Black Knights a 17-7 lead. On last drive before the half Trent Steelman hit Trenton Turrentine for 24 yards and Patrick Laird for six yards to set up a field goal. Trent attempted only one pass in the second half when under pressure he short-hopped a pass for an incompletion to Maples on first series of the second half. It didn't matter because Army scored later on the drive.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A
Army ran for 314 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 4.1 yards a carry. Army wasn't able to create as many big plays in the running game as they did last year against the Falcons but were able to grind away and move the chains all day. The Black Knights committed no turnovers and punted only once all day. Steelman longest run was just eleven yards but he ran for 101 yards and scored two touchdowns. B-back Larry Dixon ran hard for 89 yards and had a six yard touchdown run. Dixon had the Black Knights longest run of the day when he opened one touchdown drive with a 29-yard run. A-back Raymond Maples ran for 73 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown. With Malcolm Brown out with an injury, Trenton Turrentine played well as he ran for 47 yards on eight carries. Center Ryan Powis and left guard Frank Allen did an excellent job in the middle. Former starter Derek Bisgard, whose chronic knee problems nearly ended his career, was solid replacing the injured Ben Jebb at left tackle.

PASSING DEFENSE: B
Air Force quarterbacks Connor Deitz and Kale Pearson completed 17 of 29 passes for 235 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. On The Opening Air Force drive senior cornerback Josh Jackson (5 tackles) was called for pass interference in end zone against Drew Coleman. Dietz's third-and-goal pass to Coleman was over his head but Jackson who had good coverage inexplicably made a boneheaded mistake and knocked down Coleman drawing the flag. Instead of forcing a field goal attempt, the penalty gave the Falcons first-and-goal at the one yard line and Wes Cobb scored two plays later. Army freshman Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires (7 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass def.) picked off pass intended for Ty MacArthur and returned it seven yards to set up a touchdown. The following series he was beat briefly by the speedy Don Strickland but was able to recover and breakup the pass at the last second. Geoff Bacon (13 tackles, 1 int) intercepted Dietz and returned it 31 yards to help setup an Army field goal before the end of the first half. Bacon had a huge hit on tight end Marcus Hendricks to force an incompletion in the third quarter. It help the defense force Air Force's third consecutive 3-and-out series to start the second half. Cornerback Chris Carnegie (2 tackles, 1 pass def) had trouble matching up with the Falcons speed at receiver. Dietz completed a 55-yard pass to Drew Coleman on 4th-and-9 pass play to the Army one. Coleman beat Carnegie with a double move. Carnegie had a chance to make an interception when he was trailing in coverage early in the third period but never saw the pass. Rover Alex Meier (2 tackles, 1 pass def) was beat deep by Hendricks on what probably would have been a touchdown but Hendricks fell down on the route. Justin Trimble (7 tackles, 1 pass def,) was active at SAM safety but had some trouble on crossing routes running with faster Falcon receivers. While the Black Knights had no sacks they did a terrific job of creating pressure and forcing turnovers.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A+
Army held the Falcons to just 103 rushing yards which is well below their season average ofover 366 rushing yards per game. For the second year in a row the Black Knights played a 5-2 look most of the game and allowed just 2.4 yards per carry. The Black Knights defense changed momentum when the game was tied 7-7 and Rich Glover (4 tackles, 1 TFL) and Nate Combs (8 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass def) teamed up to stop the Falcons on fourth-and-goal. The return of team Nate Combs to bandit linebacker sparked the defense. Defensive tackle Bobby Kough made seven tackles, three tackles for a loss, as he played the best game of his career. Army's much maligned defensive tackles consistently shot gaps, penetrated and created negative plays. Army limited speedy Air Force running back Cody Getz to just 23 rushing yards on 14 carries. Dietz entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in rushing at 132.6 yards per game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Kicker Dan Grochowski hit from 20 and 36 yards. He was way short on a 53 yard field goal when the snap was high and he didn't hit it cleanly. The entire field goal unit did a nice job at the end of the first half with Army out of time outs by racing on the field and hitting the field goal with three seconds left in the half. Grochowski had the last of his three extra point attempts blocked. Chris Boldt only punt traveled 35 yards and wasn't returned. Eric Osteen initial kickoff was caught in a cross wind as he directionally kicked it and it landed out of bounds. Osteen hit four touchbacks and on his eight kickoffs. The special teams allowed an onside kick to be recovered but in fairness there was at least two Army players being tackled, not blocked, on the play. Raymond Maples recovered Air Force's second on-sides kick attempt. Alex Meier recovered a fumble on a kickoff to end the first half. Julian Crockett had a nice 27-yard kickoff return to open the game. Air Force's punts were short but Josh Jackson needs to do a better job of fair catching the ball. He often gives up too early and allows the ball to roll costing field valuable position. Army did an excellent on coverage teams.

COACHING: A
The Black Knights came out well prepared and ready to play. The defensive game plan was outstanding and well executed the entire game. The 5-2 look against the option has really limited the Air Force running game. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields called a great game. He kept to the plan and was conservative in the second half with the lead. He was smart not trying to force the pass against the Falcons ten man front. Rich Ellerson went for two at the right time and not too early like he has in the past. This was a huge win for Ellerson and his staff since it was the first time he beat a fellow service academy.

OVERALL GRADE: A
The Black Knights were ready to play and played a great game. It was a huge win and gives this team the opportunity to earn the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy in what has been a disappointing season.

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