Tulane looked like they could present a problem for Army and this proved to be the case. Here is the report card from the 21-17 loss to the Green Wave:
Rushing Offense: C
The numbers look fine here. Army rushed the ball for 371 yards. They controlled the tempo of the game as they rushed the ball 69 times to get to that yardage mark. They also had a couple of touchdowns on the ground. This though was one of those games where the numbers don’t tell the true story.
We knew going in that the Tulane defense was well versed in how to stop the option. Army was going to run the ball at Tulane all day, but Tulane only had to come up with one stop per drive to frustrate the Black Knights. Ahmad Bradshaw wants to be the lead player in the option game, but he was held to just 10 carries and 65 yards. Andy Davidson as a monster, going for 130 yards on 26 carries in another case where the raw numbers look good.
The problem was that the option didn’t work when it mattered. Army turned the ball over twice on fourth and short, ending drives that needed to be converted into points.
Passing Offense: F
This was just brutal. Army had to stick to the running game only because the passing game wasn’t working. Bradshaw was 0-for-3 with an interception when the Black Knights had third-and-3 at the Tulane 12-yard line in the second half. It was a drive that would have given Army a 17-14 lead earlier in the game, giving the Black Knights the chance to end the game with their later touchdown.
Army also threw Kelvin Hopkins Jr. into the game at the end because Jeff Monken has zero faith in Bradshaw’s ability to throw the ball. To be fair the game was lost at this point as Army had to drive the length of the field in less than 20 seconds, but Hopkins himself threw an incompletion before finishing the game with a pick on a desperation heave.
Rushing Defense: D-
Tulane rushed the ball far less than Army, but they had great numbers on the ground thanks to two long runs that both went for touchdowns. The first came from Dontrell Hilliard on the very first play from scrimmage, while the second was from Sherman Badie, who went 72 yards for a score at the back end of the first half. Those two plays accounted for 148 yards of the Green Wave’s 253-yard rushing total.
Their third touchdown was also on the ground when quarterback Jonathan Banks scrambled over at the end of the game on fourth down from the Army 6-yard line. This finished a drive that Banks had kept alive with a fourth-down run on Tulane’s own 27 where he rushed for 10 yards when needing eight. The Army rushing defense was solid but for about four plays all game. Those four plays allowed Tulane to win the matchup.
Passing Defense: B-
The passing defense was probably the Black Knights most consistent unit. It helps that Tulane isn’t a team that wants to throw the ball very much and that they aren’t particularly proficient when doing so. Banks threw the ball 22 times on the day, hitting 10 of his passes for 103 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. In truth, the Black Knights will have been a little annoyed that they weren’t able to pick Banks off at all given that many of his incompletions were wildly inaccurate.
This grade is marked down because the one stop the Black Knights needed late in the game they failed to get. Tulane was 0-for-7 on third downs entering their final drive, but Banks was able to convert two key third downs at crunch time. He was also able to pick up a couple of fourth downs – one through the air – that shifted the game in his team’s favor.
Special Teams: D
The one big mistake on special teams by Army – if it can really be called a mistake – was the fumble of a punk by Mike Reynolds. This fumble though was immediately wiped from the records due to a kick catch interference penalty assessed to Devin Glenn of Tulane. Outside of that issue, the Black Knight special teams did just about the bare minimum again. This is a unit that usually does as asked, but that never seems to do anything to change the flow of a game. The limitations in the kicking game though probably cost Army a win here as the Black Knights went for it twice on fourth down rather than attempt a long field goal from Blake Wilson. Both those fourth-down attempts failed and the six points a stronger legged kicker could have picked up were left on the field.
I am not at all sold on the decision not to kick field goals in such a close game. Bradshaw was stuffed at the Tulane 32 and the Tulane 29 either side of halftime. Monken likes to go it on fourth and short – and he has immense trust in his offense – but Tulane showed against Navy that they are very good at defending the option on fourth and short. Kicking field goals here would have been the safer play and given Army a big enough lead to win the game.Follow ArmySports.com on social media: