Army moved to 4-2 on the season with a dominating 49-12 win over Rice that was even more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Here Army’s report card for the game.
Rushing Offense: A
The Army rushing offense is pretty damn good when the Black Knights are tasked with driving the length of the field to score points. There are a few teams that have the athletic and size advantage to stop Army – and fumbles have been a problem at times this season for sure, but in most cases, Army has been able to move the ball with long drives and get points on the back end.
Against Rice, the Black Knights didn’t even have to do that.
The Owls were so turnover happy that Army was given short fields all day long, especially in the first half. At one point Rice turned the ball over on four straight possessions, allowing the Army running game to score points within a couple of plays of touching the ball. The result was 65 carries for 418 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and a deluge of early points.
Kell Walker had a monster game as he went for 127 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries, while Ahmad Bradshaw went for 115 yards and two scores on his 13 carries of the ball.
Passing Offense: F
I’m over the passing game at this point.
I don’t like to see Army try it and I don’t like to write about what little the Black Knights do in this phase as it always seems to be bad. Bradshaw only threw a couple of passes on Saturday, but he still managed to make one of them fall into the hands of a Rice player for an interception. The only completion to an Army player came from Kelvin Hopkins Jr. who hit Kjetil Cline for nine yards on a first down play that didn’t even lead to anything. Two false starts and a loss of three yards later and Army was facing third-and-14 moments after facing second-and-1. This passing game is cursed.
Rushing Defense: A
The Rice rushing attack rumbled for 200 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries against Army. Leading rusher Jordan Myers had 76 yards on 15 carries and he was ably assisted by Emmanuel Esukpa who added 56 yards and a touchdown on just six totes of the rock. Army gave up a double century of yards on the ground, yet their rushing defense still grades out at an A for one reason only.
Army finally started to force fumbles from the opposition.
At one point at the back end of the first quarter the Black Knights had forced Rice to fumble the ball three times in five plays. Those fumbles were all turned into touchdowns and a 0-0 game had become a 28-0 Army romp because of the turnovers.
Passing Defense: B+
Army gave Rice’s true freshman quarterback Miklo Smalls a rude introduction to the world of college football. Smalls threw a touchdown on his fifth career pass after taking over a Rice offense that had been awful so far in 2017, the only problem being that his pass was thrown to Army defensive back Max Regan who took the ball back 48 yards for the touchdown. A few players later Smalls was pulled from the game as his confidence looked shot and the Rice coaches don’t want to ruin a player who they think has a big future in Houston.
Smalls was replaced by one of the ineffective quarterbacks from earlier this season in Jackson Tyner. Tyner inherited a team that was in the process of being behind 28-0 and he really didn’t do a whole lot to get Rice back into the contest. He finished 7-of-16 for 135 yards and a score, but plenty of this was garbage time yardage at which point Army was already thinking about the ride home.
Special Teams: B
Those who read this often will know that my special team’s grades are spiked in a big way by one or two positive or negative plays. For the most part on Saturday the special teams did what you would expect. Extra points were made, kicks were covered, and punts were returned. The only play of note was that the Black Knights managed to get through and block the one extra point attempted by Rice all game. Rice had actually picked up some momentum as they had scored on their first drive of the second half to make it 35-6, but that blocked extra point was quickly followed by another Army touchdown and the game was over as a contest.
The Army players seemed to be actively trying to strip the Rice ball carriers in this one and it was interesting to see that as the Black Knights lack of turnovers had been preached about by the coaching staff all week. The six turnovers caused were three more than Army had managed in the previous five weeks combined and if the Black Knights can continue to dominate the turnover margin then this is going to be a very difficult team for anyone to beat down the stretch.