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Army falters in fourth quarter, drops season opener to ULM

Photo by Connor Waltz/Army West Point Athletics

“Army beat Army today.”

That was the comment from Army cornerback Bo Nicholas-Paul moments after the Black Knights gave up 14 late points to host Louisiana-Monroe in route to a shocking 17-13 loss in both team’s season openers.

While the Warhawks two late-scoring drives won the contest, the story was as much about Army’s impotent offensive attack, especially in the red zone, five turnovers and one missed field. The Black Knights, utilizing a shotgun option offense for the first time, and with junior Bryson Daily starting at quarterback for the first time in his college career, failed to score an offensive touchdown and
turned the ball over twice in the red zone.

On five trips into the red zone, Army managed just two field goals, missing a third one in the first quarter.
But the Army defense still managed to keep the Black Knights ahead in the game until midway through the fourth quarter. Warhawks starting quarterback Jiya Wright, also starting his first game, was held to just 70 yards in the air on 10 for 21 passing.

More importantly, Wright was picked off twice, the first one by Nicholas-Paul, who scampered 44 yards for Army’s first pick-six since Jabari Moore’s interception and touchdown run against Mercer in 2020. The second was a Max DiDomenico pick, about a minute later, that set up a field goal to give the Black
Knights a 10-3 lead at halftime.

The Black Knights increased their lead to 13-3 on Quinn Maretzki’s second field goal, a 28-yarder with 13 minutes left in the game.

Moments later, the wheels fell off the Army caissons. After an Army punt, Hunter Smith took the first play from scrimmage and raced 62 yards for a Warhawk touchdown. The extra point closed Army’s lead to 13-10. On the next Black Knight drive, wide receiver Ay’Jaun Marshall fumbled the ball after a 25-yard
reception and Louisiana-Monroe recovered it on the Army 45-yard line. Four plays later, the Warhawks’ backup quarterback, Hunter Herring, found Tyrone Howell in the corner of the end zone for the winning score with under two minutes left in the game. Howell’s possession of the catch was questionable by officials ruled it a touchdown and the call was upheld in a replay review.

“I thought our defense played really well for most of the game,” says Army coach Jeff Monken. “Obviously, giving up the long run for the touchdown was a big play and certainly disappointing. And another big run gave them a chance to be in scoring position and, of course, we gave up the touchdown in the corner. They played fairly well with the exception of those couple of plays. We were not doing much to help the defense on offense.

“The story of the game was the turnovers. We turned it over five times, they turned it over twice. We are not going to win if you do that. It is really hard to win a football game with just one turnover than the other team, much less than having three more turnovers than the other team.”

Nicholas-Paul hopes Army can use the experience as a learning experience.

“Credit ULM, they have some very good athletes,” he says. “But I think the best part of the outcome of this game is that Army beat Army today and we will get back to work, fix it and get on to the next game.”

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