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The Recap: Army impresses, Navy does not

A college football column with a focus on the Service Academies, featuring notes from around the country.

NCAA Football: Army at Georgia St. Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports


Georgia State was favored in its season opener at home, but it did not play like it. At the site of what was once known as Turner Field, the Army Black Knights simply controlled nearly every facet of the game. Jeff Monken’s boys even THREW for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns. When Army can do that, they’re hard to beat for anyone.

The Black Knights jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and coasted from there, dominating the opposition in Atlanta like Sherman did in 1864. Army ran for 258 yards on 67 touches, a grinding clip of 3.85 yards per-carry. Army didn’t turn the ball over, owned more than 42 minutes of the clock, and won 43-10 with relative ease.

Entering this game, there was two key questions for Army: Could it carry over its defensive success from last season, and who would start at quarterback, and how would they do?

Defensively, Nate Woody’s side remained stout, rendering the Panthers’ rushing attack ineffective. Georgia State rushed 28 times for just 48 yards, a disappointing 1.7 yards per-carry average. That contributed to the Panthers’ inability to sustain long drives. Georgia State was off the field in six plays or less on seven separate drives. An interception and a fumble didn’t help the Panthers’ either.

On offense, three different quarterbacks saw time under-center for Army, and all three impressed in their own ways. Tyhier Tyler got the start and led Army on its first two scoring drives. Christian Anderson then entered the game and scored on a rush, and then later threw a passing score too. Jemel Jones came in later and also threw a touchdown. In all, the three QB’s combined for 28 rushes for 104 yards, and 3-of-4 passes completed for 98 yards.

Georgia State was picked to finish third in its division in the preseason Sun Belt poll. After getting embarrassed at home by Army, its hard to imagine them hanging with teams like Coastal Carolina or Appalachian State.

As for Army, this result seems to be a floor-raiser for them. If the option is efficient and the defense is stingy, it might not matter who’s under-center. We’ll find out more about the Black Knights on Saturday when they host a Western Kentucky team riding high after a win over — uh, *checks notes* — UT Martin, which WKU gave up three touchdowns to.

After that, Army plays UConn. So, pencil-in a win.

And then Army faces two mid-tier MAC teams.

So, we might not see this Army team really get tested until it faces Wisconsin on Oct. 16.

A few weeks ago, I told SB Nation’s Wisconsin blog, Bucky’s 5th Quarter, that Army was “most likely” not going to beat the Badgers this season. However, after the Badgers absolutely crapped all over themselves Saturday vs. Penn State, I’m not so sure about that. Wisconsin ran 95 plays and scored 10 points (just the third team to do that in the last 20 years), and they turned the ball over three times. There’s a recipe out there for beating a good Service Academy team. The sort of inefficiency that the Badgers displayed won’t cut it. And if Army can keep building good momentum as they power toward that date, that’s good news for the Black Knights.

Air Force

I’m not going sit here and pretend like I watched this game. Air Force faced FCS side Lafayette on Saturday in a contest that was on Stadium. And, to be honest, I was content with flipping through the channels on my cable box, or occasionally switching to the ESPN+ app installed on my TV. Stadium just wasn’t part of my football-watching plans for the day, and likely never will be.


Air Force won 35-14, and Haaziq Daniels was uncontainable as he rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Micah Davis and Brad Roberts topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the Falcons as they piled up a total of 385 yards on the ground.

Offensively, Air Force played well and good. But defensively, with a couple of those standout turnbacks returning to the mix, a better performance was expected. What is Air Force doing to allow a team like Lafayette to throw for nearly 250 yards?

Luckily, the Falcons won’t be facing much of a passing attack next week.

Speaking of which...


Whew, boy, this was bad.

I mean, it wasn’t quite BYU bad — but it was still bad.

Navy’s season-opener against Marshall was decided in about, oh, eight minutes. Navy looked unprepared and uninterested, and often played in slow-motion at times as Marshall thundered past them. The Herd was up 28-zip before Navy found the end-zone.

Like Army, Navy also had an undecided quarterback battle coming into this game. The difference is, Army seems to have two or three guys who are competent enough to run a decent option game and complete a few passes when the opportunity arises. Navy is still searching for one guy who can do that.

The Mids trotted out four different quarterbacks on Saturday, and neither looked great. If you want to make the case for one standout — and perhaps the one who should start against Air Force — its Xavier Arline, who ran 16 times for 76 yards and scored Navy’s lone touchdown of the day. He also completed 2-of-3 passes for 26 yards.

Navy did force Marshall into three turnovers, and the Mids did control 41 minutes of clock, and they rushed for 337 yards. So, what went wrong? These stats stand out:

  • Mids quarterbacks combined for 5-of-16 passing with two interceptions.
  • Navy scored on just one of its five red-zone possessions.
  • Marshall threw all over the field, with ease, picking up 14 first downs and 363 yards through the air.
  • Navy punted six times. Not one of them sailed for more than 50 yards. Not one of them landed inside the Marshall 20.
  • The Mids were 8-of-21 on third downs.
  • Marshall sacked Navy QBs NINE times for a total loss of 42 yards.

It’s apparent that Navy does not have a quarterback on this roster who is of the comparable caliber to Keenan Reynolds, Malcolm Perry or even Will Worth. However, Ken Niumatalolo needs to find his quarterback and stick with him. We have seen what happens to Navy teams that play musical chairs under-center. From there, this offensive unit has to improve its blocking and its efficiency on third downs and in the red-zone.

Defensively, Navy has to improve against the pass, and it has to limit explosive plays. Marshall had four plays on Saturday gained 30 yards or more. The Mids can’t allow that. If the opposing offense puts up big numbers — especially early and quickly — that puts Navy’s offense in a position where its playing from behind, which leads to more passing plays; and that’s never been a recipe for success in Annapolis.

Navy has to fix these problems quickly. Or else, it risks the chance of being blown out by Air Force for the second year next Saturday.

Look at this

I do not support this type of behavior, by the way.

Or this. Especially this.

Two beautiful plays

Chip Kelly is back. Also, just look at the blocking here, particularly the glorious linebacker seal.

This is incredible and reckless.

Nationwide notes

  • That team in Atlanta that thinks its too good for the triple-option got beat at home by a Northern Illinois team that went 0-6 last year and hadn’t beaten a non-MAC squad since 2018. To that, I say: lmao, y’all should’ve stuck with the triple. Or at least, hire a head coach who isn’t a total fraud. I understand when you’re switching from a system like the triple to whatever Geoff Collins is running at Georgia Tech, it takes time to cycle in new players who supposedly fit the new scheme. But this is Year Three. The majority of the roster is now made up by players that Collins recruited. You simply cannot lose your home opener to a previously winless MAC team. Georgia Tech was favored in this game by 17 or so points. There is zero excuse for the Yellow Jackets losing to NIU.
  • The Tar Heels couldn’t score more than 10 points against Virginia Tech on Friday night, and so, takes about North Carolina being an ACC championship contender need to die, as do the beliefs that Sam Howell is a Heisman caliber quarterback. He threw two fourth quarter interceptions in a winnable game.
  • Boise State is going to leave the Mountain West at some point. It might be for whatever the old Big 12 turns into, or for the American, or to become an Independent, but it’ll happen. When it does, perhaps the head honchos of the MWC should take a look at the Big Sky to poach a school or two. Not only for a regional fit, but for comparable talent as well. In addition to Montana beating No. 20 Washington, UC Davis upset Tulsa, Eastern Washington topped UNLV, and Montana State and Portland State gave FBS teams a good fight too.
  • Alabama is still the best team in college football. Miami is still a mess. Let’s move on.
  • If ugly chaos is your thing, circle your calendar for Oct. 2, when Vanderbilt plays UConn. Both of these teams lost to FCS sides by embarrassing margins this past weekend. But hey, someone has to win this game.
  • FCS squad Presbyterian hired the “I don’t punt” guy — Kevin Kelley — this past offseason. Not only did the Blue Hose not punt on Saturday against NAIA side St. Andrews, but they also attempted 10 onside kicks in an 84-43 victory. Oh, and quarterback Ren Hefley threw 10 touchdowns. Yes. Ten. And yes, that’s an FCS record.


  • The Singular Ecstasy of College Football in the South (Tommy Tomlinson, Garden & Gun)
  • Appalachian State fires a warning shot for 2021, starts pivot away from season that didn’t meet expectations (Ethan Joyce, Winston-Salem Journal)
  • Spalding product Jayden Umbarger, others are bright spots in disappointing Navy football season opener (Katherine Fominykh, The Capital)
  • 5 takeaways from Penn State football’s 16-10 road win over Wisconsin (Kyle J. Andrews, Centre Daily Times)
  • In dismantling Miami, Alabama shows it is still the most powerful team in college football (Ryan McGee, ESPN)

Last thing

Randy Edsall is retiring at the end of the year, he announced Sunday. And I mean, UConn can — and should — do something bold in replacing him. It’s not like she could do any worse than him, right?