On the fourth play of the game, Army QB Bryson Dailey broke through an overcommitted Falcon defense for a 62 yard touchdown run, by far the longest run of the year by an opposing player. Four plays later, the Army defense stopped the Falcons on 4th and 1, leading to an easy field goal. Mentally, the Falcons never recovered from Army’s great start. The Black Knights went on to put points on the board the next three possessions, all with short fields provided by Falcon turnovers. On the last of those scores, Payton Zdroik made one of the better defensive plays of the game when he powered his way through the offensive line to hurry Dailey into an incompletion, only to be called for a roughing the passer penalty on a questionable but defensible call for tackling a little too hard for today’s rules. That gave Army a third down conversion which led to a field goal. The play was indicative of the entire game. Earlier, one of Zac Larrier’s best passes in the game had sailed through Jared Roznos’ arms. Roznos has been a very reliable target this year, and in fact was analytics firm PFF’s highest graded receiver in all FBS.
The first half ended the score 23-3, and true to form, the Falcon defense held Army without a point in the second half, but the offense continued to flounder, adding a missed field goal, two fumbles and an interception to their collection of blunders. As a team, the performance was the most disappointing effort I’ve watched since the 21-0 shutout to Army in 2017.
Kudos should go to Jeff Monken and his staff for turning the game into Army’s conference championship and bowl game combined. His players were fired up, disciplined, and executing at a high level.
Moving forward, the Falcon’s main task will be to recapture the mental attitude they maintained for the first 8 weeks of the season. Confidence in their abilities, resilience in the face of setbacks, and discipline in the execution of plays will be the keys to unlocking a conference championship and a desirable spot at a bowl game.
A visit to Hawaii is next up this Saturday evening. Come back Thursday for my preview.