Well friends, that was a tough loss on the road to one of the best teams in all of college football. Still, the Army Team comes away with an awful lot to build on. Granted, I’d be a lot happier if I could say that after a hard-fought win, but this Coastal team has won *22* games in the last two years, and they have arguably the best quarterback in all of college football.
Reality is that this was never going to be easy.
Army was in it until the bitter end, getting big play after big play to hang with the Chanticleers on the scoreboard, but they needed probably two more breaks in the second half than they actually got.
As I said on Twitter, I did not think Coastal Carolina’s running game would be the decisive factor in this one, but it was. Army’s defense struggled to tackle Chanticleer ball-carriers one-on-one all night. However, they couldn’t rally to the football and gang tackle for the most part because the Chants were spreading the ball around so effectively — both laterally and down the field. It may be that Army hasn’t found their starting middle linebackers yet. Certainly the total lack of holding penalties against Army Rush LB Andre Carter didn’t help. But the biggest problem was simply CCU QB Grayson McCall. He threw just 5 incompletions all night, including *3* egregious drops from his wide receivers, and he went for 4.5 yards/carry on the few times he ran the ball himself. Against that kind of accuracy, Army had to keep their defense back and try to come up and tackle, and CCU made them pay with strong O-Line blocking and excellent team speed.
Look, we knew that these guys were good offensively. This was not a surprise. We were expecting a shootout.
Well, that’s exactly what we got.
Army Radio Announcer Rich DeMarco said before the game that the Army defense probably needed 4 stops to win this week. They got just 2, plus they forced a field goal. With that, Army’s offense needed to hold serve on every single possession. This was always going to be a tough ask, especially on the road in a packed, hostile stadium in the first week of the season.
Down three points late in the 3rd quarter, the Black Knights got 4 yards on first down to start their second possession of the second half. But they then had a Fullback Dive get stuffed on 2nd down to bring up 3rd and 6 at their own 29 yard line. To be clear, the offense HAD to pick up that first down because Coastal had already gone full track meet on the other side of the ball. So the Black Knights tried to roll QB Tyhier Tyler out to his right for a long throw down the field. Coastal’s defense was ready. Protection fell apart immediately, and it looked like Tyler tried to throw the ball away, but what happened is that he just heaved it high and deep, and it fell into a waiting crowd of CCU defenders.
Coastal got the ball at their own 44 yard line. And yeah, it probably would’ve been better to punt in that situation, but the net difference overall was maybe 15 yards total. Tyler threw the ball about 30 yards in the air. By comparison, Army P Billy Boehlke averaged 42 yards/punt.
Bottom line, that interception saved Coastal’s offense a single first down.
Coastal’s rushing attack ran for a whopping 263 yards and 2 touchdowns on 5 yards/carry. Army’s bend-but-don’t-break defense did a good job for most of the game preventing long plays, but the Chants still moved the ball with relentless efficiency, helped by McCall’s passing performance. He finished 12/17 through the air for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Chants caught some breaks with a couple of questionable Pass Interference calls, but McCall’s long touchdown pass at the end of the 2nd quarter was an outstanding play that no one could have defended.
Army’s rushing attack posted just 202 yards overall but went for fully 5.2 yards/carry, which is very good. The Black Knights did a terrific job running their fullbacks throughout the game, forcing Coastal’s defense to sell out completely to stop the triple-option. This left gaping holes down the field, which the Black Knights exploited mercilessly. Army quarterbacks went just 4/8 passing overall, but they hit an 18 yard touchdown pass and a 73 yard touchdown pass to keep hope alive in the 4th quarter.
Fact is, Army’s offense was rolling; they just ran out of time down 2 scores late.
It surely didn’t help that Coastal held the ball for 36 minutes overall. Army’s offense went quick strike 3 separate times. By comparison, Coastal had to grind their way down the field with power running. This took its toll over the course of the game, especially since the night itself was relatively hot and extremely humid.
Friends, there aren’t any moral victories in football. However, we also shouldn’t necessarily assume that this year’s Army Team is doomed simply because they lost a tough opening week contest on the road against a mid-major powerhouse. Not every team the Black Knights face will feature perhaps the best quarterback in all of college football, backed by one of college football’s most prolific rushing attacks.
On the plus side, we got to see @DrinkallCoach on the sidelines looking BUILT— As For Football (@asforfootball) September 4, 2022
Unfortunately, the next team Army faces also features a very good, very mobile quarterback, a well-balanced offense, and a defense that just held a very good Houston team to just 140 yards rushing overall on just 3.2 yards/carry. The good news is that this weekend’s game is at home. It’s also not the first game of the season, meaning that the UTSA Roadrunners won’t have spent their entire offseason watching film of the triple-option. The bad news is that the coming week’s game is only the second stop on a VERY tough opening 5 game stretch.
We already know that Army isn’t going to win all of these opening contests. If they can find a way to win a few of them, though, they’ll be in good shape heading into the back half of the season.
Here’s how I know we will be okay and still have a good year— Cons (@CaptainCons) September 4, 2022
I’m not overly upset. We have things to work on but we had our chances. Army will still be good from here on out. You watch
Go Army! Beat UTSA!!!
*Cover image via @ArmyWP_Football.