Army got its season back on track with a 35-21 defeat of UTEP at West Point. Here is the Army report card:
Rushing Offense: B
The rushing offense did what is designed to do on this day as the triple-option worse down UTEP over the course of 60 minutes. This was a game that was tight early – mainly because Army was struggling to get any consistency going on the offensive side of the ball – but from half-time onwards, it was all Army as UTEP only managed a late interception return for points in the second half.
The game was epitomized by the Black Knights second scoring drive. It was a 12 play, 93 yards affair that was finished on the ground. Ahmad Bradshaw looked to be taking the ball himself on another quarterback run, but at the last-second he hit Calen Holt on a pitch. With the defense drawn to Bradshaw, it was easy for Holt to find the edge and scream down the left sideline for his first career touchdown.
Overall the Black Knights rushed for 353 yards and four touchdowns. It is a number that most teams would be ecstatic about, but Jeff Monken and Army are no normal team when running the ball.
Passing Offense: C-
The passing offense was a mixed bag, but despite the Black Knights throwing their first touchdown pass of the season, the passing game was still more of a question than an answer on Saturday.
Bradshaw connected with Jordan Asberry on a 42-yard score with Army up 21-14 in the third quarter to put this game beyond a Miners’ team that was up for the contest, but physically and schematically inferior to Army. This was the good part of the passing game. The problem is that Bradshaw was 3-for-8 through the air on the day, missing too many passes and just not connecting with his receivers. The Black Knights first play from scrimmage was an incomplete pass that set the tone for an immediate three and out which meant that the Black Knights had to step up on defense and stop UTEP getting out to a scary 14-0 lead.
Rushing Defense: C-
UTEP was a one-man rushing show on Saturday and tailback Quadraiz Wadley did everything humanly possible to give his school a shot at winning the game. Wadley rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown, a high total than his team rushed for combined (152 yards) when negative runs are taken into account. Of the 37 UTEP carries he has 28 of them, junking and powering his way over the 150-yard mark amid a sea of missed tackles in the Army front seven.
It is those missed tackles that will concern Monken the most after this game given some of the remaining teams on the schedule. Army is not going to be bigger and stronger than most teams they will face, so the tackling discipline has to be better than it was against Wadley and the Miners.
Passing Defense: A-
The passing defense, on the other hand, was very, very good. The Black Knights initially had to deal with the challenge of quarterback Ryan Metz, but he was hurt on a quarterback sneak in the first quarter and didn’t return. He was replaced by Zack Greenlee – a player Army has faced before – and the two quarterbacks combined to complete just 50-percent of their passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
The Black Knights even had an interception in this game, though that was nullified by a penalty. This is another play that Monken will want to use as an incentive to his squad this week as you simply cannot give away turnovers with foul play away from the ball.
Special Teams: D
Special teams play will only get a passing grade when nothing goes wrong on the field. This week it was the turn of James Gibson to make the big mistake as he elongated an early UTEP drive. Gibson was on the punt return team when he went on to block an Alan Luna punt. Gibson’s timing was off and he ran into the punter after the ball had left his boot. This is an absolutely automatic 5-yard penalty and – given the position of the ball and the down markers – it was enough to give UTEP a first down.
The Army defense recovered well here to force another punt without the Miners having gained any ground, but giving away penalties in those situations can be the difference between winning and losing on any given Saturday.
I didn’t like the call to pass on the first offensive play of the game. This is almost a case of overthinking given how run dominant this Army team is. A three or four-yard run on first down at least gets the momentum going, whereas a pass falling incomplete leaves the Black Knights needing a couple of five-yard runs just to get the chains moving. Outside of that call, the coaching was fine. It wasn’t a game where Monken had a ton of decisions to make as Army is just that much better than UTEP.
At least Monken has a job today though, unlike (Former) UTEP head coach Sean Kugler who retired in the wake of the defeat after going 0-5 to start the year.