Quick thoughts: Wake Forest

The curse on Army football continued Saturday at Michie Stadium.

The Black Knights just don’t seem to get their share of the breaks late in games.

Most would have expected a blocked kick, miss or the holder tackled after a bad snap on Wake Forest’s game-winning field goal. But, Alex Kinal somehow got the hold down and kicker Mike Weaver kept his concentration drilling a 47-yard field goal as time expired for a 17-14 Wake Forest win.

If Army was in the same situation, the kick probably would have been blocked and returned for a touchdown.

Army’s snap and hold were perfect on Dan Grochowski’s 39-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. Grochowski pulled his kick way to the left. The miss would come back to haunt Army later in the game.

One play before Wake Forest’s field goal, safety Xavier Moss had what looked a game-winning pick six fall out of his hands. Why Wake Forest threw with nine seconds left already in position for a long field goal is another question. The win was right there for Moss to seal. He read an out route to tight end Cam Serigne and was thinking touchdown before he brought the ball in. Coach Jeff Monken was in somewhat disbelief that Moss didn’t pick the pass off.

“Before the game, our defensive coaches throw balls at the defensive backs and they work on going up to get the ball,” Monken said. “I’m standing right over there saying, ‘nose it to the tuck’ and when they don’t do it, I toss another ball at them and I want to see them nose it to the tuck. Being a former wide receiver, he heard that enough last year. There was a lot of green grass and he thought he was going to take it to the house. It was over at that point if he picked that ball off, but he just didn’t look it in.”

The offense continues to sputter. Army tried to get its fullbacks more involved Saturday. There was little push by the offensive line off the ball for dive plays. Matt Giachinta’s 10-yard run was the longest by a fullback. Aaron Kemper gained no more than 5 yards on his 11 carries from the triple-option set.

Think Kemper can be a more effective runner out of the shotgun or pistol formation. It gives Kemper some space to hide behind the offensive line and see the holes better.

Maybe, Army should take a page out of former coach Rich Ellerson’s triple-option playbook and run counters inside to the slotbacks, preferably Joe Walker.

Walker, the team’s most consistent slotback and one of its best receivers, had just three carries for 20 yards. Walker did not have a pass thrown his way after a 71-yard touchdown catch against UConn the previous week.

Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw threw just three passes, completing two for 31 yards (DeAndre Bell) and 23 yards (John Trainor). Bradshaw’s one short pass was incomplete to slotback Christian Drake, who had nothing but open field ahead of him on the five-yard attempt.

Still believe Army must throw the football more to soften up defenses, which like Wake Forest played most if not all of its 11 players in the box. Don’t think it’s happening any time soon.

“It is not as easy as it seems,” Monken said of passing. “You can draw up a lot of passing plays that you think will work. But, the defense has to cooperate on those play-action plays especially if you are not doing a great job of blocking them up front. I am not saying we are doing a terrible job at it,but if we could get the fullback going or the inside run going, then we can get the ball on the perimeter. If we do a good job blocking on the perimeter, it just forces the defense to get more involved in the run. The fewer, the defenders they use on the run, the more defenders they can use on the play-action pass. We beat them (Wake Forest) a couple of times, but the pass in the fourth quarter that hit Christian Drake in the hip out of the backfield, he wasn’t ready for it.”

Army shuffled its offensive line, starting freshman tackle Rick Kurz and freshmanguard Victor Nieves on the left side and moving senior guard Justin Gilbert and senior tackle Ryan Alexander to the right side. Sophomore tackle Brett Toth and sophomore guard Jaryn Villegas, who started the first two games, was out with ankle injuries. Sophomore guard Mike Houghton replaced Nieves at one point. Junior guard Colby Enegren came in for Kurz and Gilbert moved to tackle. Interesting to see what combination Army starts this week against Eastern Michigan.

Freshman cornerback Brandon Jackson reminds me a little of junior Josh Jenkins. Jackson seemed to be in the right place at the right time often Saturday. He is good tackler and he came ready to play. Can’t remember an Army player with two interceptions in his first college start.

Senior nose tackle T.J. Atimalala continues to have a very productive start. Atimalala’s 16 tackles are the most by an Army defensive lineman. His 5.5 tackles for a loss are second on the team to linebacker Andrew King (7). Atimalala was banged up in the second half against Wake Forest but returned to action. Army has done a good job of giving Atimalala an occasional breather. He played 115 of Army’s 132 snaps the first two games.

With sophomore Andrew McLean out to at least mid-season due to injury, Atimalala has been backed up by freshmen Cordarrell Davis and Raymond Wright. Davis saw his first extended action for the season Saturday.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Periscope @salinterdonato

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