Army Sputters In Loss To Air Force

Army came into Saturday’s rivalry game against Air Force looking to jump-start the last portion of their season and make a run at bowl eligibility. Instead, the Black Knights sputtered their way through the Commander’s Classic in Arlington and put their bowl hopes on life support.

The loss hands the Commander-In-Chief Trophy to Air Force for the first time since 2016. Army has retained possession of the CIC Trophy for the past two seasons and four of the past five.

Army Sputters In Loss to Air Force

Head coach Jeff Monken expressed disappointment multiple times in his post-game press conference. That disappointment was primarily with Army’s rushing attack. Army came into the game averaging well over 300 yards per game but mustered a mere 78 yards on the ground. The cadets managed only 8 first downs for the entire game.

This was even more disappointing as Army was coming off of their second bye week of the season and were as healthy as they’ve been since the first week of the season.

Sputtering Offense

Army quarterback Jemel Jones was the primary rushing option for Monken on Saturday. Jones had 21 carries for 37 yards. All other Army rushers combined for 14 carries on the day. Offensive Coordinator Brent Davis never tested the outside of the Air Force defense, as 34 of the 35 carries were either quarterback runs or handoffs to fullbacks Tyson Riley and Jakobi Buchanan. It was all Jones in the second half, with 18 of Army’s 24 plays either a quarterback run or a pass.

Jones wasn’t able to open up the passing game, either. Jones was 4-for-14 on the day with 67 yards. Army’s receivers were able to gain separation on multiple occasions, but Jones wasn’t accurate on the day and he was under a consistent pass rush.

Army’s offense wasn’t able to do anything on Saturday. The Black Knights’ stats tell it all: 145 total yards of offense and eight total first downs. That was clearly the source of Monken’s disappointment.

ARLINGTON, TX – NOVEMBER 05: Air Force Falcons running back Brad Roberts is upended by the Army defense in Lockheed Martin Commanders Classic between the Army Black Knights and the Air Force Falcons on November 5, 2022, at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Photo By: Kate Pearson-Halyburton Last Word on College Football

Defense Gives Way

Army’s defense had a solid effort on Saturday. It was good enough to win, but without much help from the offense, the defense gave Air Force a little too much in the second half.

Army held Air Force to just three points in the first half, with just nine total plays on the first two drives and an interception on the last full drive before the half.

But after Army’s offense went backward on their first drive of the second half, Air Force unleashed quarterback Haaziq Daniels. Daniels led Air Force to 10 points in the first two drives of the second half and then turned the game over to a staunch defense. He finished 6-for-13 in the air with 98 yards, but the success he did have was in clutch moments and he was clearly the better thrower on the day. Daniels also added 89 yards on 14 carries and recorded Air Force’s only touchdown of the day.

Air Force pounded the Army defense with a steady dose of Brad Roberts. Roberts tallied 135 yards on 33 carries on the day.

Air Force was able to control the game with 66 total plays to Army’s 49. The offense put the defense in a position where they had to win the game. And while they played well enough to win, they weren’t able to win the game on their own.

 

Getting In Gear

Army now has to win the remainder of their games to reach bowl eligibility, starting with a road trip to Troy next week. The Trojans are 7-2 with a balanced offense. The trip to Alabama will be Army’s last chance to turn things around. Even with a win, they’ll be in the same situation against a vastly improved UCONN, Massachusetts, and Navy.

A win next week keeps Army on the path to another bowl under Monken. A loss turns this week’s disappointment into a season of despair.