With the last-second loss to Louisiana-Monroe two weeks ago clearly still fresh in their minds, and nobody wanting to forget it, Army played a nearly-perfect offensive football game Friday night at the loud and raucous Alamodome in San Antonio against a very good Texas-San Antonio football team.
Scoring on their first six possessions, and without any turnovers, sacks or penalties and forced to punt just two times, the Black Knights registered an impressive 37-29 victory over the Roadrunners, who were the two-time defending Conference USA champions before moving to the American Athletic Conference this season. UTSA was without the services of its star seventh-year senior quarterback Frank Harris, who was ruled out with a toe injury just before game time.
The numbers were impressive. Army collected 442 total yards, with 254 coming on the ground and an efficient 188 yards in the air, connected on three Quinn Maretzki field goals, including a career-long 45-yarder in the second quarter, and averaged nearly 50 yards on its two punts.
The Black Knights controlled the ball for more than 44 minutes against less than 16 minutes for UTSA. Perhaps most impressively, the Black Knights were a perfect 6-for-6 on fourth down conversions.
“The momentum definitely carried over from last week (a win over Delaware State),” said sophomore running back Hayden Reed, who rushed for a career-high 107 yards on 27 carries and scored the Black Knights first touchdown in the first quarter. “Week one was rough for us with a lack of communication and that was something we emphasized these last two weeks. We had a lot of missed assignments in the first week. We have always been the tougher team, but finishing and winning the fourth quarter has been a struggle for us in the past and we have been taking control of that, as well.
“(With) all the negative talk we consumed the past couple of weeks with the new offense, we had a chip on our shoulders. We really wanted to prove ourselves. I think we did just that. We really made a statement.”
The individual performances were impressive, too. Junior quarterback and Texas native Bryson Daily, who scored five times in the Black Knights’ victory over Delaware State last Saturday, scored twice against UTSA. One was a 25-yard pass to wide-open sophomore Noah Short, midway through the third quarter to put Army up, 30-21.
The other was a three-yard run that gave the Black Knights a 37-21 lead with six minutes left in game. Daily rushed for 102 yards in the contest.
“I definitely feel more comfortable week to week,” said Daily. “Just getting more games and practices under your belt. We go all spring with an offense and think you feel comfortable but you don’t know until you get hit in the mouth and we got hit in the mouth in week one. I love how our team and coaches responded and love that the guys trusted me after week one. They were confident in me and allowed me to be more comfortable and that showed today.”
Short, a sophomore from San Jose, Calif., who had three catches for 68 yards, added that the coaches played a huge role in motivating the team. “It all started in practice,” he said. “ULM was tough and the big win against Delaware State gave us some momentum.
“Offensive coordinator Drew) Thatcher has been saying communication is a priority for us. All units of the game came together for us, rushing, receiving the O-line blocking. It was just a great team win.”
In the third quarter, junior running back Markel Johnson connected with Isaiah Alston for a 55-yard reception on a halfback option pass that set up Short’s touchdown on the next play. Senior running back Jakobi Buchanan chalked up 30 yards on eight carries, including a 10-yard run for paydirt, the 26th career touchdown tying him for 8th in academy history, to put Army ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.
But, as well as the Army offense played, the Black Knights defense gave up some big plays to the Roadrunners that kept the game close right to the finish. Playing without Harris, UTSA still managed to post some impressive offense of its own. The Roadrunners had a 19-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter and capped off the half with an astonishing 46-yard touchdown reception on a Hail Mary pass by backup quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger that cut Army’s halftime lead to just 20-14.
In the second half, Marburger, who attempted just one pass this season before the Army game,
threw 44-yard and 72-yard touchdown passes. He finished with 239 yards on 17 for 25 passing.
That said, the defense registered a huge sack by Jackson Powell on Marburger that forced a punt late in the game and caused a fumble, the game’s only turnover, in the first half that led to Army’s second
“It was sure fun to come out with a victory in that one,” said Army coach Jeff Monken, who has beaten UTSA three times since 2019 at the Alamodome (Army lost to UTSA at Michie Stadium in overtime last year). “I’m proud of our team. What a great effort. They played really, really hard. When they needed to make plays the defense came up with some stops. And the offense got the first down that we needed at the end. I’m proud of our team and our staff and excited to beat such an outstanding football team like UTSA.”
Monken was eager to call out the coaching staff, especially Thatcher, in his first year as offensive coordinator after coaching at Nebraska-Kearney. “He called a really good game,” he said. “Just the (Johnson to Alston) pass and the pass to N oah that was an answer to a score. They scored and we went right back down and put seven on the board. In general, I thought he did a very good job of calling plays for our team. I think Drew called a game that fits us and fits our quarterback. I’m really happy with Coach Thatcher and the job he did tonight and the whole staff.”