Led once again by plebe Cade Ballard and yearling Tyhier Tyler, the Army Black Knights opened up the full roster en route to a commanding rout of the visiting Mercer Bears. Though the Bears drew first blood, notching a 36-yard field goal, those would be the only points scored by Mercer for the remainder of the game. Army coasted the rest of the way to a 49-3 victory.
Ballard finished 1-for-1 passing for 53 yards, and the opening Army touchdown, connecting with fellow plebe sensation Tyrell Robinson. Ballard also ended up with 15 yards on the ground and an additional touchdown. Tyler led all rushers with 77 yards on 10 attempts, including an impressive 30-yard burst.
Firstie fullback Sandon McCoy led the way with three rushing touchdowns, with Jordan Blackman and Cade Barnard rounding out the offensive scoring. On offense, Army had 13 different players rush the ball for a total of 297 yards along with 63 passing yards; good enough for 360 yards of total offense.
While Mercer didn’t look terrible, and looked like they had shown up with a game plan, what killed any hope they had to keep things competitive was turnovers. Bears QB Harrison Frost struggled, failing to top 100 yards through the air and throwing three picks along the way.
This is the second time this season that the Army defense has outscored an opponent. Jabari Moore, Cameron Jones, and Jon Rhattigan all registered interceptions, with Moore taking his pick 29-yards for an additional touchdown late in the third quarter.
Perhaps the only negative of the game was Landon Salyers’ missed field goal at the end of the first half.
Defense Wins Championships
It’s hard to not keep bringing up Nate Woody’s impressive defensive unit. While they’ve had to sell out in order to win a couple games this season, the Army defense simply complemented an efficient offense, effectively stifling any chance of a Mercer upset.
The Black Knights are ranked in the Top 25 of several defensive categories, and of those categories, they are one of few teams who have actually played more than five games this season.
Against the Bears, Army allowed just 221 yards of total offense with Spencer Jones and Rhattigan racking up seven tackles each. Six players on the Black Knights defense recorded tackles for loss, plus Arik Smith registered the team’s only sack. Cameron Jones broke up a pass, and Kwabena Bonsu was credited with a QB hurry.
So far, this Army defense has only looked better and better with each passing game, and it’ll be exciting to see them continue to attack opposing offenses after the upcoming bye week.
Cade Ballard and Tyhier Tyler once again saw the bulk of QB duties against Mercer, but even fellow backup Maurice Bellan saw decent playing time, completing his only pass attempt for 10 yards and tacking on an additional 18 yards on four rushes.
It remains to be seen how the QB situation will unfold as the rest of the season progresses, but it’s definitely comforting to see Army’s backups and reserves settling, finding a rhythm, and still being able to dominate opposing teams. If the last two games have been any indicator, it’ll be exciting to see how Ballard and Tyler progress along with others such as Tyson Riley who finished second in rushing with 48 yards on nine carries.
With their convincing win over Mercer, the Black Knights have reentered the Coaches Poll at No. 25, and are also the first FBS team in 2020 to receive and accept a bowl invitation. After the upcoming bye week, Army welcomes service academy rival Air Force to Michie Stadium for their first C.I.C. matchup of the season.