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Takeaways: Army football finds recipe for beating Navy

“It was a bare knuckle brawl,” said Army head coach Jeff Monken.

NCAA Football: Navy at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The 121st Army-Navy was unique and had a lot of “firsts” for many reasons, but despite the challenges of the year, the Black Knights managed to keep Navy at bay and maintain a scoreless game on their part. Army beat the Mids for the fourth time in five years, winning 15-0.

“It was a slug fest, just back and forth: three plays and punt, three plays and punt, a first down in between and then a punt again,” said Army head coach Jeff Monken.

It was evident the Army-Navy game was hard fought, but coming off of last year’s 31-7 loss, it was obvious that this Army team, regardless of the circumstances was determined to win.

Navy’s challenge? Find a spark and consistent play on offense with less time than usual to prepare for its rival.

Ironically enough, the last shut out at Michie Stadium was just over 70 years ago, but this time Navy was on the other end of the goose egg score.

Here are a few of my big themes from Saturday’s game.


Mo’ quarterbacks, mo’ problems (not really though)

We’ve lamented about Army’s unfortunate rotation of quarterbacks in the midst of an injury-riddled campaign at the position, but if Saturday was any indication of what the Black Knights are grooming, the team should be primed well at that position for some years to come.

“From (the) UTSA (game), I feel like I’m a totally different player,” said Tyhier Tyler, Army’s sophomore QB. “The more reps you get, the more comfortable you get.”

Making your first start in the Army-Navy game as a sophomore is no easy feat for anyone, but Tyler’s confidence is hard to ignore. Even with a few slip ups, like a fumbled pitch, Tyler is young and has the opportunity to improve even more in his years to come. He finished the game with 96 rushing yards and a score on 26 carries. He carried the Army offense.

Special Teams deserve love too

Let’s face it: this game was more punt-heavy than any other match up this season so this praise seems appropriate. Coach Monken even said Zach Harding “may be quietly the most valuable player” from Saturday’s contest.

The sophomore punter made booted away the ball seven times for 262 yards, and his 48-yard punt in third quarter was key to keeping Navy from getting any possession time they needed.

Harding wasn’t alone in shining on special teams for Army. Freshman Quinn Maretzki was 2-for-3 on his field goal opportunities, including one for 37 yards at the top of the second quarter, set up by a pass from Tyler. Maretzki iced the game in the fourth quarter with another field goal, that one from 40 yards out.

Defense is the gift that keeps on giving

If one theme has been consistent this season, it’s that Army’s defense has been on committed to their assignments and that’s in part to both the players and coaching staff. Led by Nate Woody, the defensive unit held Navy to just 117 offensive yards and 1-for-11 on third downs.

“Our ability to play defense like we have this year is really remarkable,” said Monken. “[Nate Woody] came in in the middle of a pandemic. We had no spring ball. We couldn’t meet with the guys. They had no film to look at of themselves making mistakes and correcting them. We Zoom-met all spring and all summer and they’ve just played really really well.”

The list could go on: the goal line stop in the third quarter? Jon Rhattigan’s fumble recovery at the top of the fourth quarter? Cedrick Cunningham’s touchdown-saving tackle on Navy freshman quarterback Xavier Arline? The fourth quarter safety?

Army’s defense was incredible Saturday.