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Tyson Riley rises to occasion in Senior Day win

Photo by Lynn Fern/Black Knight Nation

Tyson Riley kept his legs churning as four Coastal Carolina defenders attempted to slow him down.

Riley kept moving and his Army teammates, including quarterback Bryson Daily, joined in pushing the ball forward.

After Riley picked up eight extra yards on the final play of the third quarter, he emerged from the scrum, pumped his arms, walked toward the sideline and was greeted by Army offensive line coach Mike Viti.

Viti, a former Army fullback, fired Riley up in a B-backs moment. You know if you know.

Riley returned to his roots as a Black Knights fullback Saturday in the under-center option for his first action running the ball since three carries since the team’s season opener at Louisiana-Monroe.

One of the team’s best athletes, Riley was switched to H-back, a blocking tight end, and caught two touchdown passes in Army’s shotgun option.

On Senior Day in his final home game, Riley would spark Army’s best rushing day this season with his second career 100-yard performance in a 28-21 victory over Coastal Carolina. Riley finished with 112 yards on only 12 carries the Black Knights’ 13-play opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, his first rushing touchdown since Oct. 22, 2022.

Jakobi Buchanan, a fellow senior and former B-back, added a season-high 60 yards on 12 carries.

“In practice (during the week), I got a few reps at it,” Riley said. “I’ve played football for a while. So, hopefully, I haven’t lost the ability to run the ball. It was a fun day out there.

“It just kind of brought me flashbacks to the years before, just like me and him (Buchanan) just kind of going back and forth, feeding off each other’s energy, and that was great for me today.”

It seemed like old times with Army running a scheme similar to its flexbone, Riley and Buchanan rotating in at fullback and Ay’Jaun Marshall and Tyrell Robinson at slotback. Marshall scored his first touchdown of the season on a run.

Riley said he, Buchanan and Markel Johnson met with Viti in the team hotel Friday night to review potential plays and what the fullbacks might see from Coastal Carolina’s defense.

“He (Viti) just kind of sat me and Jakobi and Markel Johnson down and we were just going through plays, and he was giving us all the good pointers,” Riley said. “So on the first run, we had down there in the red zone, he was like, ‘When you see this look, just get behind your guard and tackle and just let them lead the way for you,’ and you just remembering those coaching points as you go into every play was crucial.”

Both Riley and coach Monken said they weren’t expecting to stay in the under-center option for the game’s entirety. The success of Riley, Buchanan, Daily, Marshall and Robinson gave the coaching staff no reason to return to the gun option Saturday. Army ran just one play from shotgun all game – freshman quarterback Champ Harris’ interception on the final snap of the first half.

All of the banked reps and thousands of times Army had run that under-center option made it look like the Black Knights never left the scheme.

“Just relying back on those fundamentals I’ve learned,” Riley said. “If you look at our recent games, we’ve kind of gone with a more smash-mouth, in-your-face (attitude), going back to Air Force and Holy Cross. We’re running the ball a lot more. I think that’s the identity that this team has and that we need to be successful for the rest of the year.

The rest of the year is right now one more game. The biggest game of year with the Commander in Chief’s trophy on the line against on Dec. 9 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

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