Quick thoughts: Air Force

Total domination.

The two words summed up Army’s 21-0 win at Air Force Saturday. The offense led by quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw’s academy quarterback record 265 yards and Kell Walker’s two touchdowns and the defense sparked by the return of senior safety Rhyan England and sophomore cornerback Elijah Riley highlighted the first shutout of an Air Force team in 306 games.

A lasting memory of the postgame celebration was coach Jeff Monken hugging fullbacks coach Mike Viti, who played on the last Army’s team to win at Air Force in 2005.

Bradshaw added another chapter in quarterback’s decorated career. The prospects for Bradshaw’s record day were in question when the senior didn’t make it to Army’s sideline after vomiting on the Black Knights’ first play of their second drive. Bradshaw, like he has in big games over the past two seasons, rose to the occasion. Fourteen of his 23 carries were for first downs, an incredible stat.

Bradshaw has now played a major role in ending losing streaks to Navy (11 games) and Air Force (4 games) and the Black Knights’ first bowl game since 2010 in a span of 11 games. If Army defeats Navy on Dec. 9 and wins its first Commander in Chief’s trophy since 1996, you’d have to add Bradshaw to a conversation, which would include Ronnie McAda, Trent Steelman, Tory Crawford and Rollie Stichweh among others. The senior quarterback appears to be on the verge of setting Army’s single-season rushing record of 1,339 yards set by Collin Mooney in 2008. Bradshaw has 1,132 yards (No. 10 in the country) with four games to play.

Mentioned on Twitter Saturday, Bradshaw’s performance against Air Force should earn some Heisman consideration. I’m not saying Bradshaw should be in New York on Dec. 9 for the presentation just yet. Bradshaw and Army have the most important game in the program’s last 20-plus year that day in Philadelphia. The coveted Commander in Chief’s trophy, which Army hasn’t won since 1996, will be on the line against Navy.

Army’s offensive line continues to play at a high level and Brett Toth continues to show why 25 teams have stopped at West Point to see the senior tackle. Senior guard Mike Houghton and center Bryce Holland were also effective. As a whole, this is the best Army offensive line I’ve seen in my 11 years on the beat.

Monken called the defense’s performance its best, “by far” in his four seasons at Army. The Black Knights were physical from the start. How many hits did Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman take? England looked quick for a player coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss five games. Riley, who was making his season debut, brought a physical presence holding down the edge for linebackers Cole Christiansen and James Nachtigal, who each had 10 tackles, to make plays.

The defense’s effort reminded one of how good this unit can be when it’s at or close to full strength. Air Force was averaging 38.1 points per game and has scored 45 points in three of its previous four games. The Black Knights held Air Force to 95 yards on 2.8 yards per carry. Michigan, considered one of the nation’s best defenses, allowed 168 yards against Air Force in September.

The shutout, Army’s first against an FBS team since 2010, vaulted the Black Knights into a tie for 20th in scoring defense (18.9 points/game). The Black Knights have quietly moved to 35th nationally in total defense (358.9 yards/game).

Army faithful were hoping for the Black Knights’ first appearance in the Associated Press Top 25 after the win. Army only received two 25th-place votes (one point each) in the AP poll and three points in the Coaches Poll. Thinking Army may have to win its next two games against Duke and North Texas to be ranked.

Crazy stat: Opponents have made an FBS (Division I-A) low two field goals against Army this season. Luke Strebel’s 47-yard attempt in the first quarter was the fourth miss against Army this season. Strebel has made 37 of his 46 field goals (87 percent) in his career. Ironically, Strebel missed a 47-yarder against Army last season.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud @salinterdonato. Started a Facebook page, solely for Army coverage. Here’s the link.

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    Sal Interdonato

    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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