Army hit the 10 win mark on the season with a thrilling victory over San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl. Here is the Black Knight’s report card:
Rushing Offense: A
Stats are fun. Sometimes stats make no sense. The Armed Forces Bowl was one of those days.
The Black Knights had a monster rushing performance, yet had to go for a two-point conversion to win the game because of San Diego State’s ability to score in a hurry. The Black Knights had the ball for 46 minutes in a 60-minute game. They had 31 first downs, while the Aztecs had 31 plays.
In total, the Black Knights rushed the ball an almost incomprehensible 87 times. Almost as incomprehensible is that the 87 rushes was still 12 short of the DI record of 99 set by Missouri in 1968 against Colorado.
The box score is madness. Ahmad Bradshaw had 32 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns. For most college teams that would be an entire game’s worth of production. Fullbacks Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson combined for another 35 carries, 168 yards, and the other three Army rushing scores.
The beauty of the win was the two-point conversion that Army had been setting up all night. After option run after option run, Army scored their two on a quick pitch to slot back Kell Walker. It was an amazing call to end an amazing game.
Passing Offense: N/A
When the ball is passed four times – and run 87 times – then this isn’t worthy of a grade. Army passed the ball on just 4.5 percent of its offensive plays and gained just six yards through the air. Also, the Army trick play that resulted in an SDSU interception was an example of why trick plays are buried at the back of the playbook.
Rushing Defense: F
We knew that San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny was going to be a threat. What we didn’t know was that the back that finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting this season was almost going to singlehandedly win the Armed Forces Bowl for the Aztecs.
Perry was peerless against Army. He carried the ball 14 times and rushed for 221 yards and four touchdowns. His long rush was of 81 yards and he averaged almost 16 yards per attempt. His ability to run away from the Army defenders when they were chasing him was something behold as he has that wide receiver speed in the frame of a running back.
His 81-yard touchdown run on the first SDSU series was an example of why he was so hard for Army to contain. His blockers opened a hole in the defensive line and one juke move later Perry was tearing away from the Army defense.
Passing Defense: B+
The passing defense had one big play to stop a potentially damaging SDSU score, but in general, the Aztecs didn’t have to pass that much as Perry was such a dominant force in the contest.
Aztecs quarterback Christian Chapman passed for just 25 yards on the day, completing 6-of-10 through the air. The crucial play on this side of the ball though was made by the Army defense in the fourth quarter after Army had turned the ball over. Faced with a goal to go situation at the Army 19 yard line after a penalty, Chapman passed a ball that Jaylon McClinton managed to deflect while falling to his knees. The ball went directly to Alex Aukerman, who gleefully picked it off and grabbed the ball back for Army.
Special Teams: C
The special teams unit could have stayed at West Point for all the work required of them here. Neither team attempted a field goal. There were zero punt return yards for either side. Basically very little of anything happened on special teams during the game and – given some of the issues Army has had in this phase in 2017 – head coach Jeff Monken would probably have been happy with that outcome.
Monken couldn’t coach his defense to stop Perry, but he did make the correct call in going for two with the game on the line. Knowing that SDSU was likely to score every time it touched the ball, Monken called on the knowledge of his offense he has accumulated this season and called the correct play at the correct time. The ease with which Walker scored the two-point conversion was incredible and it goes to show that Monken had worked the entire game to call a play no one was expecting.
This was a huge victory – on the back of a huge season – for Army and the 2017 team can now boast 10 wins to go with their other accomplishments over the course of the season.