For those of us that have spent a lot of time watching Army football the last few years, Elijah Riley isn’t a new name. We have seen the senior cornerback lock down the opponent’s best receiver week in and week out for the last three seasons. Riley got his first start in the fourth game of his career against Buffalo and has never looked back.
Last year, Riley elevated his game even further, ending the season with 55 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for a loss and 10 passes defended. But, he has always had a knack for elevating his game for the biggest matchups. Last year against Oklahoma, he had 9 tackles.
I got the task of doing the position breakdown of Army’s defensive backfield during the preseason, and I wrote down in that article that I believed Riley would get a shot on Sundays and had a chance to be drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. Well, Saturday certainly went a long way in making that possibility even more realistic.
Riley was all over the field on Saturday in Ann Arbor, and for that, he has earned our Week 2 CIC MVP Honors! He led the Black Knights defense, which bottled up Shea Patterson and company most of the day with 13 tackles. He also had 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery on the day. His tackles for a loss and sacks accounted for a total of 17 negative yards and they came at huge moments in the game.
After Army had fumbled the ball on their own 21 yard line late in the first quarter, Riley got one of his two sacks, forced the fumble, and got the fumble recovery on the very next play. That kept the game tied at 7 and was critical to Army’s first half momentum. Later in the half, Riley got his second sack which pushed Michigan to the Army 37 and made a 45 yard FG attempt a 55 yard try that the Wolverines missed to end the half.
In the end, it’s still a bittersweet feeling for Army, taking another top ten opponent to overtime at their place for a second straight season. But there is no reason that this Army team won’t be favored in each of their remaining games, and a big part of that, will be because our week 2 CIC MVP will be lurking in the defensive backfield.