Behind a dominant offense powered by Jemel Jones, the Army Black Knights are 3-0 at home and 3-1 on the season after topping FCS side Abilene Christian on Saturday. Jones totaled three touchdowns and 190 yards of total offense as Army won 55-23 at Michie Stadium.
Following last week’s loss to then-ranked No. 14 Cincinnati, Army head coach Jeff Monken and the team were looking to correct a number of mistakes and stop the run against ACU. And while it was a clear victory, it also was a messy one.
“There were times when we got ourselves in long yardage situations. Third-and-12 — that is not the situation we want to be in. We have to do a better job to get ourselves in manageable third and fourth down situations,” Monken said. “And today, if the stats are any indication of that, we were 3-for-11 on third down which is very poor by our standards.”
The Black Knights put up points early-on following a 45-yard drive that ate up 5:19 on the clock. After Sandon McCoy’s one-yard punch into the end zone in the first quarter, Army went for three more points with Landon Salyers connecting on a 43-yard field goal to put them at a 10-0 lead. A career-high for the senior kicker, Salyers is now 3-for-3 for his field goal attempts.
But the offense wasn’t the only unit who came into today’s game with an aggressive spirit. Nate Woody’s defense was able to hold the Wildcats to just 86 rushing yards and only 1-of-10 on third down situations. A sack by Nolan Cockrill in the second quarter forced ACU into a punting situation, but the boot went just three yards. Two plays later, Jemel Jones scored the first of his three touchdowns on a three-yard scamper into the endzone.
Jones, a 5-foot-10 sophomore from The Colony, Texas, entered the game early in the second quarter to relieve an injured Christian Anderson at quarterback. He played in garbage time vs. ULM and MTSU earlier this season. The severity of Anderson’s injury is unknown.
In an effort to build a big lead early, Army successfully pulled off a surprise onside-kick attempt after Jones’ first score. Set up by a 41-yard run by Jones, Jakobi Buchanan found the end zone on a short run, pushing Army’s second quarter lead to 23-0.
“Really just getting reps in practice and a couple of those game reps has helped me build confidence every day,” Jones said. “Today it was a little different situation and I came in when we really needed to make plays and step up. We practice it every day, so it was really just keeping the ball running and that was really huge.”
In all, Jones totaled 138 yards and two touchdowns one the ground, and completed 4-of-7 passes for 52 yards and another score.
On the ground, Army netted 441 yards. In addition to Jones, freshman running back Tyrell Robinson also topped the 100-yard mark in rushing, covering 126 yards on just seven carries, good enough for an 18 yards per-carry average.
Anthony Adkins had 70 yards and two scores on 10 carries, while Sandon McCoy tallied 38 yards and a score on his 10 totes.
On defense, a number of Army players had racked up tackles, including defensive backs Marquel Broughton and linebacker Jon Rhattigan, who totaled eight tackles each.
Army also totaled three sacks, three QB hurries and five pass breakups.
Rhattigan mentioned Army’s defense has evolved significantly since the start of the season.
“I think we had a really good game plan going in. (ACU) definitely have a talented team, a talented quarterback and once they started working the perimeter and passing the ball a lot more, we had to adjust a little bit,” Rhattigan said. “Our strategy every week is just to play hard and play good football and I think we did just that.”
While Saturday’s game was an improvement from their performance against Cincinnati and a nice bounce-back at home, the Black Knights now have to look ahead.
“Each game is independent of itself. When you suffer a loss as a competitor, it hurts you and it should, otherwise you are not competitive enough. Last week hurt, but this was a completely different game,” Monken said. “Didn’t have anything to do with Cincinnati, didn’t have anything to do with Abilene Christian. It had to do with us. There is a standard that I expect from our team, with the way we play.
“Not wins and losses, it has nothing to do with that. It is about the way we play. The execution of the fundamentals, the execution, the mental and physical toughness, those are the things that are important to me. If they are doing their job, they ought to do it with great fundamentals.”
Next week, Army will take on a fellow Service Academy and triple-option-based team in The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina that plays in the FCS. Kickoff is on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 1:30 p.m.