The last time I watched Army Football from the press box, I was covering the Black Knights for WKDT. This time, yours truly is a little older (and heavier) and covering the team for As For Football.
I covered the Armed Forces Bowl in 2017 when Army won the game on a gutsy two point-conversion against San Diego State. This time, my heart rate was similarly high as the Cardiac Cadets struck again with a last second field goal.
I drove down the afternoon of the game and hit my fair share of traffic, but once I arrived, the experience was very pleasant. The bowl’s “Fan Fest” was a lot of fun. The weather was beautiful and who doesn’t love free koozies?
Once inside the stadium, I found my seat on the Missouri side press box. The box served Chili Dogs which were phenomenal. I ate an amount that I can only hope would make Ross Tucker proud.
I have to say, the Armed Forces Bowl staff does an excellent job with this event. They are true professionals and as an Army fan, I’m glad we find ourselves in Fort Worth with some regularity.
This year, the official attendance was 34,888. Army usually pulls slightly higher numbers in this game, but I’m impressed with the turnout considering Covid implications still may have kept people from traveling. And the Armed Forces Bowl has drawn the biggest crowd of bowl season so far.
Fun stat of the game: In addition to having a 4-0 record in the Armed Forces Bowl, Army is also 4-0 in Armed Forces bowl coin tosses.
First Half Recap
The first half left Army fans with much to be desired. Despite an impressive performance from the fullbacks, the Black Knights’ three drives resulted in only one touchdown accompanied by a missed field goal and a punt. But the ability of the fullbacks to pound the rock and convert downs gave Army fans something to smile about. The first half highlight was a pair of plays by JaKobi Buchanan. After converting a 4th and 2 at the 25-yard line, Buchanan made a block nearly 15 yards downfield on a Christian Anderson designed bootleg run. There’s something special about a 260-pound fullback reaching full speed on a block.
Christian Anderson Touchdown!— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) December 23, 2021
Good one brewing between Army and Mizzou pic.twitter.com/56Gneyge5o
The defense in the first half failed to keep the Tigers from scoring on any of their drives. Based on Mizzou personnel available for the bowl game, the defense decided to play heavy pass coverage. But the Tigers’ running backs (and quarterback) had free reign to run. Missouri ran for 157 yards before halftime. The silver lining for the defense was that they held three of the Tigers’ drives to field goals. That meant a deficit of a very manageable 9 points heading into the locker room.
Second Half Recap
Out of the intermission, Army’s offense had a 17-play, 75-yard drive. An impressive 10-yard bulldozing touchdown run by JaKobi Buchanan capped off the drive. Interestingly, half (37) of the yards on the drive came on 8 fullback dives from the full complement of Adkins, Buchanan, and Riley.
Jakobi Buchanan hit the end zone like a freight train 💪 pic.twitter.com/lD4YZeHfiV— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 23, 2021
Army’s defense then had to hold Mizzou to keep the deficit at two points. The Tigers got to midfield before the drive stalled out into a 4th and 1. The Black Knight defense stuffed Missouri running back, Dawson Downing, on one of the few plays where the Tigers’ offensive line looked seriously overpowered. The fourth down stand felt like a major momentum swing at the time. As a result, Army had a chance to take the lead for the first time in the game. That fourth down stand felt like a major momentum swing at the time.
The ensuing Army drive was a 13-play touchdown drive. 11 (not a typo) of those plays were fullback dives. The only other plays were a 2-yard run by Tyheir Tyler (now in for an injured Anderson) and a 14-yard touchdown to Brandon Walters on a option-misdirection play on 4th down.
Missouri moved the ball well on their next drive, but Marquel Broughton forced a fumble which Andre Carter picked up and returned into plus territory. After Army was unable to create points off the turnover, Zach Harding dropped a punt to the two. Missouri punted for the first time on the subsequent drive after an Arik Smith sack.
Unfortunately, the Black Knight offense failed to score for a second straight time and the Tigers got the ball back with just under three minutes. Mizzou struck quickly and it felt like someone took the air out of the room. Mizzou quarterback, Brady Cook marched down the field in 1:33 to score a touchdown. After the two point-conversion attempt failed, Army was down one point with 71 seconds to play.
With Anderson hurt, third stringer, Jabari Laws came in to lead the comeback. Through a combination of QB draws, passes, and penalties, Army found themselves on the Missouri 24 with just under 20 seconds to play. Instead of risking a sack, Monken decided to put the ball on the left hashmark to set up a career-long tying FG attempt for Cole Talley. Well we all know what happened next.
One of the downsides of watching the game from the press box is that cheering is not allowed. After watching most of the Cardiac Cadets’ games in 2017 from the box, my heart couldn’t take it. It’s one of the reasons I stopped calling games my senior year. But I channeled my excitement into tweeting so the AFF crew gets invited back in the future.
West Point, by thee. Beat Navy!— Brigade Review (@BrigadeReview) December 23, 2021
So proud of this squad. Can't wait for next year! pic.twitter.com/gM43bIV03B
I sincerely hope you all liked the coverage yesterday. It was certainly enjoyable covering the team for you all. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: We should all be extremely proud of this team and you all should be too. A 9-win team is certainly nothing to scoff at. There’s plenty of time for revenge next year (and trust me, it will come). But for now, let’s celebrate these seniors and their incredible four seasons here. What a way to cap it off!