Quick thoughts: Fordham

Senior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw’s answer to the first question of the postgame press conference shows how far Army has come in terms of its program’s culture.

When asked if he could have scripted a better start for Army’s offense as it opened a 21-0 first quarter lead, Bradshaw said, “Absolutely, sir. If I didn’t have a turnover today, it would have been better,” after a 64-6 season-opening victory over Fordham Friday night.

Army and Bradshaw have reached a point where winning isn’t enough. Players and coaches are striving for perfection.

Maybe coach Jeff Monken was nitpicking, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled about Fordham’s three second-quarter drives. Fordham ran 32 plays to Army’s 1 in the quarter. The one Army play was a 71-yard touchdown run by Bradshaw.

“So we kicked off and they got the ball at the eight-yard line and drove it all the way down, went to kick a field goal that we blocked and returned for a touchdown,” Monken said. “And then we let them drive it back down there again, and we stopped them. They drove down and scored the touchdown, but not the extra point. Then, at the very end of the half, we let them drive it back down there again. We are going to look at that part and say, ‘Hey, here’s how we need to improve as a unit,’ to get them off the field and not let them drive down the field. But, beyond that, in the second half, I thought the defense did a great job.”

Speaking of the defense, Alex Aukerman and company look more faster than the unit that finished fourth in the country in total yards allowed. Sophomore inside linebacker Cole Christiansen, making his first career start, quickly covered sideline to sideline and tipped a pass that was interception by Jaylon McClinton in third quarter…Army had 29 different players record tackles.

The cornerback trio of Cam Jones, Jalen Sharp and Mike Reynolds combined for 17 tackles, a majority in the open field. They kept receivers in front of them and held up well against the run. Jones, a sophomore, and Sharp, a junior, were making their first career starts. Sophomore Elijah Riley, who started 11 games last season, reportedly is out indefinitely due to academics.

Back to Bradshaw, starting his third straight season opener, the senior rushed for a career-high 177 yards on just nine carries. Bradshaw’s 177 yards were the most by an Army quarterback since Trent Steelman rushed for 212 against Eastern Michigan in 2012. Army lost that game 48-38.

According to Army’s media guide, here are the top rushing games by a quarterback in academy history:
1. Trent Steelman, 212, Eastern Michigan, 2012
2. Tory Crawford, 208, Lafayette, 1986
2. Bob Kyasky, 208, Colgate, 1956
4. Willie McMillan 195, Navy, 1990
5. Willie McMillan, 182, Colgate, 1989
6. Willie McMillan, 182, Vanderbilt, 1990
7. Ahmad Bradshaw, 177, Fordham, 2017

Bradshaw’s night was over after the opening drive of the second half. Sophomore Kelvin Hopkins, making his college debut, led Army to touchdowns on both of his drive. Junior Luke Langdon smoothly ran the offense and looked very comfortable pitching the ball. Army scored touchdowns on both of Langdon’s drives.

Don’t see this too often: Army ran 47 plays to Fordham’s 75. More than one-third (16) of the Black Knights plays went for 10 or more yards and five were for 30 or more yards, which qualify as “big plays.” Army lost the time of possession battle by more than nine minutes – 34:31 to 25:29.

Preseason reports of Army’s special teams improvement were true. Kickoff specialist Nick Schrage had four touchbacks, three to start the game, and wasn’t needed to punt. Senior kicker Blake Wilson made his only field goal (30 yards) and added a touchback. Army kickers had just 14 touchbacks last season. Army used four kickers (Wilson, John Abercrombie, Landon Salyers) and three long snappers (Scott Flanick and freshmen Kyle O’Connor and Caleb McKee).

Photographer Josh Conklin noted that after a 71-yard touchdown run in the second quarter Bradshaw could have used a few seconds to catch his breath. Bradshaw went right to holding for the extra point and couldn’t quite put down Scott Flanick’s snap. He scrambled throwing incomplete to Zach Saum on the two-point attempt.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and Sound Cloud @salinterdonato. For Army coverage on Facebook, here’s the link.

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