Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!
Seeking to win its third straight game and put a little spark into an offense that has struggled for
much of the year, Army went back to the future and reinstalled its long-time triple option
scheme, with the quarterback operating under center, for the first time this season.
The result was a stunning 28-21 victory over Coastal Carolina that not only left the favored Chanticleers
seemingly surprised and unprepared in the sudden change in offensive schemes but also shocked many Army players and the Black Knights coaching staff that it worked so well.
Army did not complete a pass in the game – only two were attempted – but the Black Knights really did not have to pass. Behind the efforts of senior Tyson Riley, Jakobi Buchanan and wide receiver Ay’Jaun Marshall and junior quarterback Bryson Daily and a revitalized offensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage, the Black Knights collected a season-high 365 yards rushing.
Riley, who has not carried the ball since the first game of the season, was the biggest surprise of all. He rushed for 112 rushing yards on just 12 carries and one touchdown, while Buchanan registered 60 yards on 12 carries and Marshall had 64 yards on just seven carries and one touchdown. Daily, who said the coaching staff started to put under-center plays in at practice about two weeks ago, rushed for 99 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown. Army easily controlled the pace of the game, holding on to the ball for nearly 40 minutes of the 60-minute contest.
It seemed that no one on the Army side expected to use the under-the quarterback scheme, instead of the shotgun-option offensive plan the team used almost exclusively in its first 10 games, for the entire game. But, as it quickly became clear, once the team saw how well it was working, no one wanted to mess with it.
“We had some success with it in the game prior (used in three plays in last week’s 17-14 victory over Holy Cross) and it worked and so we thought if we put together a package Coastal would not be ready for it,” said Daily. “It was a great game plan and working so we just stayed in it. Whatever it takes to get a win.
“We were able to get a good amount of practice in with it this week. But honestly this offense has a ton of guys who have a million banked reps (in practice and during games in previous years) in that type of offense. We were ready to do it and I was really impressed how the guys performed in this new offense today.
“Obviously, we have not done it a lot this year and only put a few plays under center on film. So, I am sure they practiced some under center, but I think they were a little surprised. We planned to go under center until they stopped it and, thankfully, they did not stop it.”
Even coach Jeff Monken, who gave run game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Cody Worley much of the credit for calling the offensive plays, seemed a bit surprised that Army was able to stay with the offensive scheme throughout the contest. Monken said that Worley had the most experience calling under-center option plays,
“Certainly, I am proud of the team and the effort they put forth today. It felt like Army football today,” he said. “We ran the ball and controlled the game and the clock on offense. It was a great win for our guys, certainly a much-needed win, after the way things have gone this year. It is great to see our guys line up and play tough football and find a way to win.
“We felt like we needed to go after (Coastal Carolina). They are a very athletic and fast and we did not feel like making it a perimeter game and try to keep up with their speed. We felt like we had to run the football and so we were working on the under-center stuff and having it ready and having it prepared and felt like it would be the best approach to start the game. I don’t know if I anticipated that we were going to stay with it the entire game, but we were moving the football and controlling the clock and scoring and so we stuck with it.”
The Black Knights, 5-6 heading into the Navy game and a chance to win back the Commander-
in-Chief’s Trophy, in Foxboro, Mass. on Dec. 9, is now 8-1 in games where they have not completed a pass in Monken’s 10-year tenure as the Army head coach. The Black Knights are also 9-1 on senior day in the Monken era.
As good as the Army running offense played – and it performed very well – one of the game’s two keys may have been a blocked punt with 1:48 left in the first half by junior linebacker Brett Gerena that was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Jabril Williams for his second blocked punt score in his career. The blocked punt, Army’s 11th since 2020, put the Black Knights up 21-7.
The second was an interception by senior defensive back Quindrelin Hammonds, his second in two games, in the endzone that stopped a Coastal Carolina drive and Army leading 28-14 with 5:38 left in the third quarter.
The two teams traded touchdowns early in the game. Army took a 7-0 lead on Riley’s 2-yard plunge on the first possession of the game. Coastal came back less than two minutes later with a 59-yard pass from Jarrett Guest to Jared Brown to tie the game. After a long 9:39 drive, Daily pushed over from the one to put the Black Knights back in front, 14-7. Then came the block punt to give the Black Knights their 14-point lead.
But, Coastal only needed 50 seconds and a 31-yard pass from Guest, who had 279 yards on 26-
36 passing, to Jameson Tucker to close that gap back to seven, 21-14 before halftime. Army stopped Coastal on the first possession of the second half and Marshall scored on an 18-yard gallop to put the Black Knights ahead 28-14.
With 1:59 left in the game, Guest hit Sam Pinckney with a 31-yard touchdown pass to again close the gap to seven, 28-21, but Army recovered the onside kick and the Black Knights ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
Does Army go back to the shotgun option against Navy and in the future? Monken says a mix of
the two schemes would probably be the best approach going forward.
“It is not easy to do and have to figure out how to make both of them work,” he said. “We have to pick where we are good at and what fits our team.”