The Falcons brought home the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2016.
The Falcon defense came up big, allowing only 145 yards of total offense, and only 20 yards in the second half. Add in 6 key pass completions and 14 runs from Haaziq Daniels and a heap load of Brad Roberts, and the Falcons completed the much needed sweep of Army and Navy, fully redeeming what had been a season marred by a few underperforming games against division foes.
As I suspected when I wrote my preview of the game, Army focused their defense on trying to stop the fullback dive and the pitch option and forcing Haaziq Daniels to run with the ball.
The Black Knights were very successful at stopping the pitch, allowing no yards on the handful of times John Lee Eldridge, DeAndre Hughes, and Zach Larrier tried the edge.
They were less successful at stopping Brad Roberts, who ran 33 times for 138 yards, but were able to stuff some of his attempts and stall many Falcon drives.
But it was Haaziq Daniels that made Army pay for their strategy by carrying the ball 14 times for 89 yards, including a scamper of 17 yards for the winning touchdown. Although he had one interception late in the first half, he threw effectively, completing 6 of 13 for 98 yards.
It’s pretty clear that Coach Calhoun doesn’t like to make his QB carry the ball too often. Comparing how often Daniels carries the ball to how often Army’s and Navy’s QB carry the ball reveals that Daniels has carried the ball an average of about 10 times a game. Army and Navy’s QBs carry the ball 15 to 20 times per game. Navy has two QBs who regularly play and Army has three. With that many QBs that can step in, the wear and tear on any one of them is less, and if an injury occurs, it doesn’t hurt the team too much. I’ve mentioned before that Calhoun has only used his other quarterbacks for spot duty or garbage time. When we see any of the other QBs, they don’t ever run the option, and the threat of the option is an important part of the Falcon offense.
Of course, the Navy and Army game are must win situations, so Daniels was going to get the call as often as needed. With the CIC in hand, a bowl game secured, and no chance to go to a conference championship, moving forward we might see a little more experimentation and more chances for backups to get valuable playing time for next year.
Against Army, we saw Zach Larrier enter the game at quarterback on the second play of the game. That was an indication that the coaches knew quarterback runs were going to be needed to win. Unfortunately, the play went nowhere and at the end of the play, the ball came loose from Larrier’s grasp. Although it was not a fumble, I’m sure it didn’t build any trust in involving backup QBs in the running game, and Daniels took all the snaps for the rest of the game.
The defensive effort by the Falcons was the best of the year. Army’s rushing game produced only 2.2 yards per carry, and the longest run was only 9 yards. Their passing game completed only four passes but two of them came on the same drive for 31 and 24 yards that led to the Black Knights only score. Camby Goff’s interception on Army’s last drive sealed the victory.
Next up, New Mexico next Saturday. Come back Thursday for my preview of the game.