Army, particularly its lackluster offensive unit, laid an egg Saturday afternoon, resulting in its first home shutout in 20 years
With a nearly impotent offense, impeded by untimely penalties and four turnovers, the Black Knights fell 19-0 to Troy at a wet and somewhat-empty Michie Stadium.
Army failed to score at Michie Stadium for the first time since a 28-0 loss to South Florida on Sept. 27, 2003 and were held scoreless for the first time since a 35-0 loss at Stanford on Sept. 13, 2014.
Army’s third loss in a row dropped the Black Knights to 2-4 on the year, with a trip to Baton Rouge and No. 22-ranked LSU on slate for next Saturday.
Besides the penalties and turnovers, Army managed to record just 255 total yards. The Black Knights were just 2-for-13 on third-down conversions and 1-for-5 on fourth-down tries.
And, the Army punting game, which did well earlier in the season, fluttered against Troy, with Cooper Allan hitting five punts for an average of just 30 yards per kick.
“We could not do anything with it on offense,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “We fumbled the ball five times. Just poor ball security, poor fundamentals. That goes back to what I said just about every week, need to block and sustain blocks with good fundamentals, we got to get off the blocks with good fundamentals, we got to tackle better with good fundamentals, we got take care of the ball with good fundamentals and we just did not do that. If is frustrating and disappointing, but we will try to regroup and get the guys coached up to do better next week.”
As bad as it was, it could have been much worse. The Black Knights defense gave up 449 yards, including many big running and passing plays, to Troy, but managed to stiffen when its collective backs were against the wall a number of times. That forced Troy to settle for five field goal tries, making four.
Despite all of its big plays, Troy struggled moving the chains in critical situations, going 4-for-13 on third-down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth down. And, the Trojans had their own penalty issues, getting called for nine infractions for 80 yards.
In fact, Troy’s only touchdown came late in the first half when the Trojans quarterback Gunnar Watson, who threw for 227 passing yards on just 10 completions, found wide receiver Chris Lewis wide open for a 52-yard touchdown reception to give Troy a 16-0 halftime lead.
The one bright spot for Army is that the Black Knights may have found its next star running back. Freshman Kanye Udoh, who only had 52 yards on 14 carries entering the game, rushed for 124 yards on 18 carries on the day. On one play, Udoh ran for 23 yards with virtually the entire Troy team on top of him trying to bring him down.
“It was nice to get out there with my teammates and my friends,” said Udoh. “And just got out there to compete, it always is, but I would have liked to come home with a win. I always stay ready and stay mentally prepared regardless if I am going in or not. When my number is called, I get out there and make the best of my opportunities.”
But, that was about it. With the exception of first-quarter drive that ended with a Tyrell Robinson fumble on the Troy 24-yard line, the Black Knights did not near or into the Trojan red zone until late in the contest when Army eschewed a field goal try to unsuccessfully try to keep the drive going.
Making matters even worse, Army starting quarterback Bryson Daily was injured in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Instead, freshman Champ Harris led the Black Knights the rest of the way, going 6-for-13 and 63 yards in the air, plus one late interception.
Looking at the stat sheet after the game, Monken was concerned that his defense gave up nearly 23 yards per reception and close to six yards per run. “I don’t know what to say after you just get your butt completely kicked, which we did,” he said. “Credit to Troy, they have a really good football team. They had some big plays. What our defense did well was hold them to three points on a bunch of drives, which was positive. But, the big plays got them into those scoring positions.
Monken did point to Udoh, from Mays Landing, N.J. and a product of USMA Prep School, as a bright spot. “I was really happy with Kanye,” he said. “He is a guy we recognized from the very first day of practice that he was going to have a chance to be a good back. We played him the last couple of weeks more and more. Certainly today as he really ran the ball and carried the pile, he had some impressive runs. So, we kept giving it to him and I am excited about his future with us.”
As for Harris, Monken was quick to note that he was playing high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Miami a year ago. “Champ has earned the second team spot,” he said. “His ability, certainly he is young, but he is very talented and we thought he would give us the best chance if Bryson went down.”