Sunday, December 24, 2017

Quick Thoughts: The Armed Forces Bowl

What a game!

I'll be honest.  I didn't think Army was going to win that game, and I especially didn't think they were going to win it after RB Rashaad Penny broke off that 81 yard run on 3rd-and-18 in the game's very first series.

But that was the story of the game.  SDSU got big plays from Penny and a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to end the first half from RB Juwan Washington, but that was almost the entirety of their offense.

We said before the game that if the Black Knights could keep their offense on the field and control time of possession, they'd have a chance.  Well, Army rushed for 440 yards on a whopping 87 carries, they went 13/18 on 3rd downs and 2/4 on 4th down, and that won time-of-possession overwhelmingly, 46:00 to 14:00.

SDSU QB Christian Chapman is a good player with an impressive 60.1% completion percentage, but the Black Knights held him to just 6/10 passing for 25 yards with 1 interception.  SDSU had 280 yards of total offense, half of which came on long Rashaad Penny runs.

If Penny didn't get loose and score an actual touchdown with his breakaway speed, SDSU's offense couldn't move the ball.  And yeah, he is a legitimately amazing player, but it's a team game, and his team needed more than just his personal home run threat to balance Army's offense.  The Black Knights kept the pace, kept their offense on the field, and went for 2 with 18 seconds left rather than risking overtime against a back that they knew they couldn't stop with any consistency.

Man, those are some satisfying highlights.  I mean, Rashaad Penny really is an amazing player.  Every one of his long runs came after first contact.  He not only has breakaway speed, he's also a tough, physical runner.  He had 221 yards and scored 4 touchdowns on just 14 carries!  He did everything they could possibly have asked.  But Army kept the pace and got a critical interception late, and that's how they won the shootout.

Life is good.

Not sure what else there is to say.  Army is now 10-3, tying the fabled 1996 team for most wins in Academy history.  They hold the Commander-in-Chief's trophy, also for the first time since 1996.  QB Ahmad Bradshaw is the new all-academy record holder for rushing yards in a single-season.  Finally, these Black Knights have beaten Navy and won their bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 100+ years of Army Football.

A talented class of firsties is graduating, but this team is in good shape going forward.  Coach Jeff Monken and company have been recruiting talent for four years now.  They've already got a solid crop of commits for next season, and they ought to get a lift out of the Prep School next year, too.  Army Prep beat both Air Force Prep and Navy Prep in 2017.

So yeah, next year's team might be a little younger.  They will probably also be a little bit faster and more athletic.  It will be tough to replace guys like T Brett Toth and S Rhyan England, but the Black Knights have guys at both positions who've seen meaningful snaps in the past few years, and that should help.

The expectations have changed, and it's been a genuine pleasure to watch it happen.

Go Army!  Beat 'Em!!!

P.S.  My picks are looking pretty good, no?

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