Shayne Buckingham and Connor Finucane remained on the 20-yard line in disbelief on what they thought was the final play in a disappointing afternoon at Michie Stadium.
Army would be awarded one more play after a UMass defensive player’s helmet fell off. It wouldn’t matter. One of those crazy lateral plays came up way short as had Army.
Army’s losing streak hit five games with a 21-14 loss to UMass, a team that the Black Knights beat 44-7 last season. To put the loss in proper perspective, it was UMass’ third win in its last 40 games against FBS competition (Akron, 2019, New Mexico State).
Senior defensive end and captain Austin Hill looked at the stat sheet in disbelief after his press conference. Kay’ron Lynch-Adams rushed for 234 rushing yards and three TDs against an Army defense that couldn’t solve UMass’ counter play and spotted the Minuteman a 13-0 lead. Lynch-Adams’ rushing yards were the most against Army since Navy’s Malcolm Perry gained 304 yards on Dec. 14, 2019.
Looking for one word to describe Saturday’s outcome. Bad. In my opinion, not as bad the 2015 loss at Yale but pretty close.
Was saying before the game that Army and AAC could have waited until Air Force week on their announcement to get more buzz that would include a win over UMass. That was premature.
A 62-0 loss at LSU last week was rock bottom for Army’s offense, which couldn’t generate one red-zone play. And when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Black Knights continue to dig the hole deeper with more turnovers and questionable play calling.
The Black Knights’ 4th-and-2 call was beyond puzzling from the UMass 7 down 21-7 in the third quarter. A pass was called by Army offensive coordinator Drew Thatcher. Bryson Daily rolled right and with a defender closing in threw into double coverage in the end zone. UMass intercepted the pass.
Asked Army coach Jeff Monken if he had any second guesses about the play call.
“Yes,” Monken said. “Yes.”
When asked if he could have done anything differently on the play, Monken said, “Run the ball, certainly. It’s my fault.”
Later after Monken after the press conference asked if having running back Jakobi Buchanan in the game for that play would have made any difference as far as UMass thinking Army may more run if the pass play was still called. Monken didn’t think so. He did say that he could have vetoed Thatcher’s call.
Army came out throwing the football with a 43-yard pass from freshman Champ Harris to classmate Tobi Olawole. Two plays later, the Black Knights attempted an end around that resulted in a fumble on the exchange and a loss of seven yards. No need to get fancy there. The end around hasn’t been a home-run play for Army this season and has had as many misses as hits. That end around play threw Army off schedule and the Black Knights settled for a career-long 49-yard field goal that was missed by Quinn Maretzki.
It was the first time that Maretzki kicked a field goal or extra point since the fourth quarter of the Boston College game.
Daily’s second-quarter touchdown run ended Army’s scoreless drought of more than 159 minutes. The touchdown was saved when a booth review ruled UMass had 12 men on the field, wiping out Daily’s fumble inside the 5-yard line. Monken said he spotted the penalty as it was unfolding.
Army’s offense is still missing the consistent big plays (20 or more yards). After the 43-yard opening pass, the Black Knights, Tyrell Robinson’s 25-yard run on a pitch was the next “big” play with 5:30 in the third quarter. It was Robinson’s longest run since his return on Oct. 7. Need more of that in the offense.
Onto special teams, absolutely and obviously can’t have a 4-yard punt (it was originally credited 2 yards and apologize for still referencing it as that in podcast below). Too many shanks this season. Honestly, didn’t think the punter would play a huge role in this game. Thought Army would move the ball to a point where punting wasn’t needed. Turns out another punting error would be lead to UMass’ only second-half touchdown. Monken said that a fake punt was called on 4th-and-3 from Army 43 in the third quarter, looking for a spark and thinking UMass would be in the same formation as it was for the Black Knights’ first boot. The Minutemen weren’t and dropped Cooper Allan for a 13-yard loss. Six plays later, Lynch-Adams reached the end zone for a third time to make it two-score game.
A positive: A little too late but Army’s fourth-quarter touchdown drive could be something we see more of in the future. Harris operated the hurry-up (or one-minute, two-minute) offense smoothly and finished off the 90-second possession with his first career touchdown from 36 yards out.
Harris’ clock went off in the pocket. The freshman was decisive in taking off and bounced off a tackle on his way to a house call.
Onto No. 17 and undefeated Air Force. Know it’s against Army’s philosophy on winning time of possession but maybe a faster-paced, hurry-up offense is part of the answer Saturday at Empower Field in Denver.