Well, the Black Knights came up short, but once again, they’ve put the country on notice. 20-point underdogs, Army came into the Big House and pushed Michigan to double-overtime before falling, 24-21.
Coach Monken and his team won’t be content with moral victories, but Army fans should take pride in the effort they put forth against the #7 team in the country. In a finish that felt eerily similar to last year’s heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma, you can’t help but feel that Army should have had this game. Nonetheless, Army’s performance should definitely thrust them back into serious consideration for another Top 25 berth heading into the remainder of their season.
Army struck first in the first half, and had decent success against the Wolverines running along the interior. The speediness and athleticism of the Michigan was on display as Army struggled with pitch plays to the outside. The Black Knights only attempted one pass in the first half which was incomplete.
Although putting together two touchdown drives in the first half, Army did fumble and didn’t execute perfectly. Although that fumble didn’t cost Army, an interception on their first drive of the second quarter did - Michigan marched down the field to tie up the game at 14 a piece.
Despite some flashes of success, Army’s offense was unable to score in the second half which forced the game to go into overtime. However, the Black Knights regrouped and punched through to score first in overtime, 21-14. Unfortunately, Army failed to go ahead in the second overtime frame, with Kelvin Hopkins losing a fumble on an attempted pass with the Black Knights backed up on 3rd and 11.
As mentioned previously, Army needed to out-execute Michigan and eliminate mistakes, but unfortunately, the Black Knights couldn’t quite manage that. There were opportunities for Army to put the game away in regulation, but they failed to capitalize and allowed Michigan to hang around and outlast them.
The Army defense showed up in a big way - forcing three turnovers in just the first half! Sloppy play from Michigan definitely helped, but the Black Knights frustrated Jim Harbaugh’s offense all afternoon.
The defense forced several punts, and even a handful of turnovers on downs to get the ball back in the hands of Army’s offense. A questionable targeting call took Javhari Boudreau out of the game late in the forth quarter, but Army was still able to hang tough with his absence. Army’s defense came up huge on 4th and 2 to give Army the ball back with just under two minutes left in the game.
Another questionable pass interference call helped Michigan answer with a touchdown in the first overtime frame. The defense answered the call once more in double overtime to hold Michigan to just a field goal, 24-21. As mentioned above, the offense was unable to capitalize, but it’s becoming quite evident that Army’s defense is a major factor for opposing teams down the line. The offense just needs to capitalize when the defense sets them up.
Despite allowing a fake-punt 4th down conversion by Michigan en route to a touchdown, Army’s special teams played solid in all aspects. In a game where mistakes seemed to make or break things, Army special teams executed their assignments.
Unfortunately, Army special teams was unable to capitalize on a couple of key opportunities such as a forced fumble by the punt return team in the fourth quarter and the 50-yard field goal attempt to win the game with 2 seconds left on the clock in regulation.
As an Army fan, it stings for the team to have come so close to upsetting a Top 10 team for the second year in a row, yet fall short in overtime. While Army has moved away from claiming “moral victories” in recent years, there’s absolutely no reason for the Black Knights (and their fans) to be anything but proud of their effort. Once again, they went toe-to-toe with the nation’s best and almost won.
It’s definitely not the desired outcome, but it should put Army back into Top 25 conversation and also serve as a benchmark for how this team can, and should, play for the rest of this season. With an effort like that, another double-digit wins season seems entirely plausible and retaining the Commander in Chief’s trophy very manageable.
There will no doubt be challenges, and none of the remaining teams on Army’s schedule should be overlooked, but with their performance today, the Black Knights should have every confidence and expectation to win out this season.