Quick thoughts: Armed Forces Bowl

Let the debate begin on the best 10-win Army team after the Black Knights equaled the 1996 squad with a dramatic 42-35 victory over San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl Saturday.

Who’s a better quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw or Ronnie McAda? How do fullbacks of the present Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson stack up against Joe Hewitt? Is defensive end John Voit comparable to C.W. Estes?

The Armed Forces Bowl was another example of the Army’s growth over the last two seasons. Jeff Monken and his staff have instilled a never-quit attitude in their players. The Black Knights scratched, clawed and emerged victorious for fourth win in the final moments.

Sophomore cornerback Elijah Riley brilliantly summed up Army’s second straight bowl win.

“Everyone kept level head & knew there was a lot of 4th quarter left in this game,” Riley said after the win. “We’re Fourth Quarter Warriors and when we get to 4th quarter, we are not giving up. We’re going to go tooth and nail & do whatever it takes to get that win.”

It was fitting that Army’s offensive line picked the play on Kell Walker’s go-ahead, two-point conversion run with 18 seconds left. The Black Knights’ offense ran a mind-boggling 91 plays, 87 of them runs behind Josh Boylan, Bryce Holland, Mike Houghton, Rick Kurz and Brett Toth. Army controlled the ball for an insane 46 minutes.

Need to double check this but believe the victory over San Diego State was Army’s first over a 10-win team…possibly ever.

Bradshaw became the fifth Army player to join the 3,000-yard rushing club (3,038). Bradshaw’s 180 yards against San Diego State were the most by an Army player in a bowl game. He recorded his 12th career 100-yard rushing game, which ties Trent Steelman for second in academy. Mike Mayweather, who was in attendance for the bowl, owns the academy record with 21.

Army’s 440 rushing yards gave the Black Knights an academy-record 4,710 for the season. The previous high was 4,438 set in 2012 (12 games).

Two unreal stats: Army lost just four fumbles on 775 rushing attempts this season. The Black Knights completed just 20 passes this season and won 10 games.

Army won its second straight game when allowing an opposing running back more than 200 yards. San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny touched the ball on 15 of San Diego State’s 31 plays and gained 211 total yards.

Play of the year nominee: Army may not have reached its 10th win without a remarkable effort by sophomore cornerback Jaylon McClinton early in the fourth quarter. McClinton tipped Christian Chapman’s pass as he was slipping down on the turf into the waiting hands of linebacker Alex Aukerman for an interception.

Junior linebacker James Nachtigal made five tackles and finished the season with 103. Nachtigal’s third-down stop of Juwan Washington 1-yard short settled the game down for Army on San Diego State second possession. Three of San Diego State’s five unsportsmanlike penalties were the result of two separate late hit/pushing after play on Nachtigal.

The defense held San Diego State to 26 passing yards on 10 attempts.

Teams are more apt to break out trick plays in bowl games. Army’s two trick plays backfired against San Diego State.

Kicker Blake Wilson was dropped for a 7-yard loss after taking a pitch on a fake field goal. Keeping its offense on the field would have been a better option. The tackle for loss ended a 20-play Army drive to start the second half.

On the proceeding drive, wide receiver Kjetil Cline’s first career pass attempt was picked off on a 3rd-and-7 from Army’s 28. Cline threw into coverage in the middle of the field. Taking the loss and not throwing probably was the better option.

Very surprised Army didn’t squib its kickoff following Andy Davidson’s touchdown run with 18 seconds left in the first half. Juwan Washington stopped Wilson’s kickoff just before it went out of bounds and returned 78 yards for touchdown to tie the game 21-21 at halftime. Wilson handled kickoff duties for the first time this 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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