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Recap, takeaways: Inconsistent play on offense hurt Army vs. Cincinnati

Despite a hungry defense, offensive mistakes kept Army behind in a close, frustrating game against Cincinnati.

NCAA Football: Army at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When betting lines favored Cincinnati by 14 points, many Army fans felt that the Black Knights were completely underestimated, especially with two games under their belt — both double-digit blowout wins. However, 14 points was the exact margin of defeat as No. 14 Cincinnati came away with a 24-10 win over No. 22 Army.

Things looked promising for the Black Knights early on as Jabari Moore deflected a pitch and scooped it up for a 41-yard defensive touchdown, giving Army a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game. On the next series, Cincinnati drove 48 yards, but the Black Knights defense held them to just a field goal.

With a 7-3 lead before the Army offense even stepped on the field, things seemed to be going well as Christian Anderson got things rolling for the first few plays. A costly illegal blocking penalty cost the Black Knights 15 yards, and that seemed to set the tone for Army’s offense the rest of the game.

Cincinnati took over, but just three plays later, Bearcats’ quarterback Desmond Ridder threw an interception to Army’s Moore. Once again, the Army offense started off just fine but stalled out with a fourth-and-three at the Cincinnati 19-yard-line, a typically manageable situation. Unfortunately, the Cincinnati defense held, forcing a turnover on downs.

After trading punts, the Bearcats finally broke through for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead which they would take into the half.

Army overcame an early penalty on their first drive of the second half, but Anderson fumbled at the Cincinnati 40-yard-line. The Bearcats took advantage with another touchdown, increasing their lead to 17-7. On the next series, Anderson threw an interception, but this time the Army defense held and forced a punt.

The Black Knights again drove to the Cincinnati 19-yard-line, but had to settle for a field goal. After another punting battle, the Bearcats wore down the Army defense and scored their final touchdown to take a 24-10 lead. The Black Knights managed two more possessions, but were unable to break through to narrow the deficit.

Army now falls to 2-1 heading into a matchup with Abilene Christian and will likely fall out of the Top 25 rankings.

Takeaways

Defense

Nate Woody’s defense came to play. With Jabari Moore’s fumble recovery and interception, the Black Knights have forced eight turnovers so far this season. And while the Bearcats still managed over 300 yards against the unit — which has thus far held opponents to less than 200 yards — Cincinnati only gained 69 of those yards on the ground.

Army’s defense kept things close, but without any offensive production, they could only do so much especially as the game wore on.

Miscues

In stark contrast to the defense, Army’s offense couldn’t seem to sustain any sort of consistency. The Black Knights were called for 10 penalties for 87 yards plus two turnovers. This is highly uncharacteristic for an Army offense under Jeff Monken.

Another telling stat is Army’s third and fourth down conversions for the game, 3-13 and 0-2, respectively. To pull off upsets, Army has to be better on third downs and they have to pull off a fourth down conversion or two also. For example, when the Black Knights took Oklahoma to overtime in 2018, they converted 13-of-21 third downs and 4-of-5 fourth downs.

This is a team that regularly leads the nation in third and fourth down efficiency. Penalties, turnovers, and failing to convert on those crucial downs ultimately prevented Army from staying in the game offensively.

Hopefully, the Black Knights can take some lessons away from this frustrating loss and make the necessary adjustments heading into the rest of the season.