Sunday, November 19, 2017

Quick Thoughts: Army Loses a Shootout in North Texas

To say the very least, that did not play out the way that I thought that it would.

If you had told me before the game that Army would gain 561 yards of total offense, complete just one pass, and hold RB Jeffery Wilson to 72 yards on 19 carries, I'd have been happy.  Because I would have assumed that the Black Knights would come away victorious.  I said in my preview that I thought the keys to the game were Army's consistency moving the ball and their success stopping the run, which would enable the team to get pressure on UNT QB Mason Fine.

But.  Army moved the ball really well.  They rushed for 534 yards (8.0 yards/carry!), gained 25 first downs, and scored 49 points.  They won time-of-possession, but if anything, they were too good on offense.  They didn't keep North Texas off the field.  And despite holding the Mean Green to just 3.1 yards/carry rushing all-in, they couldn't get any consistent heat on Fine, and he tore their secondary a new ass.

Even then, it would have been enough without a critical muffed punt in the 2nd quarter.

North Texas got up 21-7 after the muff, and based on the way the game had already gone, I didn't have a lot of faith that Army was going to come back.  But Army scored a touchdown to answer, missed the extra point, got an interception to close out the half, and came back out to start the second half with another answering touchdown.  After the 2-point conversion, we had a tie game.  The Black Knights had lost the initiative, but they weren't quite as dead as it looked like they might have been.

The game was even after that.  Army punted once in the 2nd half, and so did North Texas.  Beyond that, neither defense could get a stop.  At a certain point, whoever held the ball last was going to win.  Army's last drive started with 3:13 left to play.  It went 75 yards in 6 plays but took just 1:50 off the clock.  That left the Mean Green enough time to kick the winning field goal.
Bradshaw finished with 27 carries for 244 yards (9 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns.  He was 1/3 passing for 27 yards.  FB Darnell Woolfolk had 120 yards on 18 carries (6.7 yards/carry) and 2 more touchdowns.  FB Andy Davidson had 11 carries for 72 yards (6.5 yards/carry), and he also had 2 touchdowns.  SB Kell Walker got hurt early in the game, bringing in plebe SB Fred Cooper in relief.  Cooper had 4 carries for 27 yards (6.8 yards/carry) and a touchdown.

Coach Monken talked after the game about the mistakes the team made in the loss, and it's a fair point.  They turned the ball over on downs on a false start early in the game, and that allowed the Mean Green to get up by a touchdown.  They also had a late hit on Mason Fine on a long 3rd down that extended a critical late drive, and they had a late interception overturned by an offsides penalty.  In all, the Black Knights had 6 penalties for 65 yards, and while that's not terrible, they couldn't afford those kinds of mistakes in a game this close. 

Not on a night when Mason Fine went 24/36 passing for 386 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception.  The guy was just too good.


This was the third meeting between these two teams in the last thirteen months, and although the last two have been tremendously exciting football games, reality is that the series needs a break.  Army definitely does not need to play North Texas more often than it plays Navy or Air Force.  But some prognosticators have already penciled yet another rematch in for the Armed Forces Bowl.  I personally doubt that will happen, but...

For better or worse, North Texas's Athletic Department cancelled the next two regular season games, leaving the Black Knights no choice but to have to schedule additional FCS games in 2018 and 2019 to fill the gaps.  That sucks.  Hopefully, the series itself will renew in 2020, but I guess that's up to the Mean Green.
This loss marks the end of any talk of Army breaching the Top 25.  But the Black Knights are still 8-3, and if you'd told me that this was where we'd be headed into the Navy game before the season started, I'd have been happy enough.  I mean, I hate to say that this was a game that Army could afford to lose, but reality is that if they go 9-3 and beat Navy, Black Knight Nation will be ecstatic.  No one will mention this particular game ever again.  On the other hand, if they lose in December, the whole season will go down as a nothing more than a tremendous lost opportunity.

Army's got one game left, but it's the only game that matters.

Go Army!  Beat Navy!!!

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