Quick thoughts: Ohio State

Always asked what is the secret to Army’s revival under Jeff Monken.

A play late in the Black Knights’ 38-7 loss at No. 8 Ohio State exemplifies the program’s culture change.

With the game decided, Monken sent junior Luke Langdon in for starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw with 6:55 left in the fourth quarter. On 1st-and-18 from Army’s 10, Langdon handed off to fullback Calen Holt and carry out his fake to the right blocking an unexpected Ohio State defensive back to the ground.

“I’m incredibly proud of our team and the fact that they fought and gave a tremendous effort all the way through,” Monken said at the postgame press conference. “Just watching the guys out there in the waning moments of the game and the last time they scored a touchdown, we went out there to block the PAT and our guys are rushing out there, trying to knife through the middle and block it. They kept playing and played as hard as they could and that’s what we ask our guys to do.”

Army played in front of the biggest crowd – 108,414 – in my 11 years on the beat and quite possibly the program’s stored history. The 1963 Army-Navy game was attended by 102,000 fans.

“It wasn’t really much of a different atmosphere than Army-Navy,” senior linebacker Alex Aukerman said. “I’d say Army-Navy is a little wilder.”

How much more can Army’s secondary endure? Junior starting cornerback Jalen Sharp reportedly suffered a torn ACL in practice week. The Black Knights lost senior safety Rhyan England, the secondary’s leader, to injury in the third quarter. England was carted off the field with an apparent knee injury. No word on if England’s injury is season-ending. England is the defense’s emotional leader and his experience and football IQ would be difficult to replace.

Army was already playing without sophomore Elijah Riley, who has yet to make his season debut due to an academic issue, and cornerback Marcus Hyatt, who has taken a medical leave of absence from the academy. At this time last year, Riley and Hyatt were Army’s starting cornerbacks…Army’s next two games are against passing-challenged teams Tulane (126th in country) and UTEP (112th). Might be a good time to give freshman safety Justin Thomas some playing time if England is out.

Another game, another passing struggle for the Black Knights. For the second time in three games this season, Army completed just 2-of-8 passes. Might have to call Elias and check if Army’s four completions is the fewest by a team through its first three games in the modern era. Sophomore Kelvin Hopkins came into the game for starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw on a 3rd-and-10 on Army’s second possession. The Black Knights didn’t pick up a blitz and Hopkins threw incomplete.

Never coached a game in my life…but wonder why Army doesn’t call run/pass option plays to get the quarterback out of the pocket. Maybe, a defender bites on run, leaving a receiver wide open on a shorter throw. Or, maybe, the quarterback gains the edge for a productive run. Remember Angel Santiago running a few run/pass options.

Would the game have changed if senior Blake Wilson made a 43-yard field goal on Army’s opening drive of the second half? Possibly. Monken stressed the importance of scoring on that drive in a halftime radio interview. Kicking field goals continues to be an adventure. Monken told me earlier in the week that he still had confidence in Wilson after he kicked a 24-yard field goal too low and off one of Army’s lineman against Buffalo. That confidence showed in Army’s travel roster. Wilson was the only kicker that made the trip to Ohio State. Keep an eye on how many kickers Army brings to Tulane this week.

Monken talked about sustaining blocks in his postgame press conference. The blocking by Army’s wide receivers and on the perimeter in general needs to improve. When Darnell Woolfolk bounced Army’s first play to the outside, thought there was an opportunity for a big play. But, an Ohio State defensive back came off a block to stop Woolfolk for an 19-yard run. The Black Knights moved the ball inside the Buckeyes 45 on their opening drive but Kell Walker has no room to run left on a second-down call, putting Army off schedule.

The Big Ten officiating crew missed two penalties on back-to-back plays of Ohio State’s second drive. Ohio State tackle Isaiah Prince grab Jaylon McClinton’s jersey just enough to prevent Army’s blitzing safety from sacking quarterback J.T. Barrett on first-down incompletion from Ohio State’s 45.

One of game’s mystery calls came on the proceeding play. The line judge missed a block in the back on Army cornerback Mike Reynolds a foot away from him on a bubble screen to K.J. Hill. It appeared the line judge was looking right at the illegal block but called an ineligible man downfield instead. The penalty was reviewed, the flag was picked up and Hill’s 14-yard gain stood.

Sophomore punter Zach Potter made his college debut and his first punt was a beauty, pinning Ohio State as its own 6 after Army’s opening possession.

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