Can’t measure the intensity and motivation for Commander in Chief’s trophy games. They are just different.
Army senior defensive end and captain Austin Hill and freshman quarterback Champ Harris said after a disappointing loss to UMass that the Black Knights would be fired up for their first leg of the CIC against Air Force.
And, were they ever. There were some off-the-chart performances in Army’s 23-3 win over No. 17 Air Force – its first victory over an Associated Press ranked team since 1972.
The win is also Army’s biggest against the point spread as an 18-point underdog since the Black Knights’ 44-13 victory over Tulane in 2008. Research shows Army was anywhere from a 17-5 to 19.5-point underdog in the Tulane win.
Army defeated Air Force for the fifth time in the last seven years, four of those times the Black Knights were the underdog.
The day was set early by Army’s offense and quarterback Bryson Daily on the game’s opening drive. We’ve seen Daily break off some long touchdown runs in his career. But, none were more important than his 62-yard sprint to the end zone.
Incredibly, Daily carried the ball 36 times, a single-game record for an Army quarterback, and registered a career-high 170 rushing yards. Of Army’s 60 plays, the ball was in the hands of Daily on 45 (nine passes).
Senior offensive tackle Connor Finucane said the Black Knights had their sharpest practices leading up to the game. The offensive line was a major part of the first quarter surge that saw Daily rush for 113 yards.
Having tight end Josh Lingenfelter back in the lineup certainly helped with Army’s running game. Lingenfelter executed key blocks on both of Daily’s touchdown runs. It was the type of blocking that has NFL scouts taking a look at the senior.
There were a plenty of 2017 Army-Air Force game feels in this game. Daily had a breakout game just like Ahmad Bradshaw did in the Black Knights’ 21-0 win at Colorado Springs six years ago.
And, Army’s defense played lights out, turning over Air Force six times.
Senior linebacker Leo Lowin was everywhere, making plays. There’s something about playing service-academy football that fires the senior linebacker up.
Last year’s Army-Navy MVP following a 16-tackle effort, the Army captain earned a helmet sticker from Dan Mullen on ESPN’s College Football Final after 12 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack in the Air Force.
The football found senior cornerback Bo Nicolas-Paul three times. Nicolas-Paul was positioned perfectly on two interceptions, the first two of the season by Air Force quarterback Zac Larrier, and emerged from a pile with a fumble recovery. He also had five tackles and two pass breakups.
College Football News named Nicolas-Paul to its team of the week for his performance.
Surprised that Lowin and or Nicolas-Paul did not receive the same honor from PFF College.
Jimmy Ciarlo continues to play at high level. made an impact. Ciarlo’s most important play may have been tripping up Larrier on a run that could have been a momentum-changer for Air Force. He also tipped a Larrier pass and dropped the quarterback for an 8-yard loss after he caught it.
Quinn Maretzki has now hit seven straight field goals in Commander in Chief’s after making 3-for-3. Maretzki said Tuesday that kicking in the altitude of Denver, added about five yards to his field goals.