WEST POINT – Army’s triple-option offense continues to amaze. It also confuses.
“Any time you play these guys, if you're not really well prepared, you're going to struggle,” Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. “I came away questioning the way we prepared, and obviously it didn't look like that from a defensive point of view. I really want this team to continue to improve all year and learn how to fight. If we do that, it will help us going forward."
Improvement is about all English can hope for. His team’s 50-25 loss was the team’s fifth straight and the second time it has allowed 50 points or more. The Eagles lost three weeks ago to Ball State 51-20.
Army's 50 points were the most scored by the Black Knights since a 55-0 victory over Fordham Oct. 29, 2011. It is also the most points they've scored against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since a 59-52 double-overtime victory against Louisville Oct. 7, 1999. It is also the most scored against an FBS team in regulation since a 56-21 victory over Temple Oct.9, 1993.
Army has scored on its first possession in six of seven games with four touchdowns and two field goals. Army punted on its opening possession against Wake Forest and kicked field goals against Stanford and Boston College.
Army’s 513 rushing yards was the 10th-highest total in team history. The record is 631 yards versus Colgate Nov. 18, 1989.
Army leads the all-time series with Eastern Michigan 3-1; all its victories have been at Michie Stadium. The Black Knights are 19-17 against teams in the Mid-American Conference.
Army quarterback Angel Santiago suffered a left leg injury last week against Boston College. He was to start against Eastern Michigan. But for how long?
“We didn’t know,” Army head coach Rich Ellerson said. “We knew he was good enough to start the game, but we didn’t know if he’d take 70 snaps or seven. The good news is he felt fine. I was a little concerned about one of those short runs, and I got him and said, ‘Are you okay with those short-yardage runs?’ and he looked at me like I had 10 heads.”
“Coming out, I felt pretty good at the beginning of the game,” Santiago said. “I was a little sore, but nothing unbearable. When the offense is executing like this with the running backs not getting tackled, and the offensive line getting everybody on the ground, it definitely makes the job as a quarterback very easy.”
Santiago ended the game with 36 yards rushing on 13 carries and five of seven passing for 38 yards. His only score was in the first quarter when he ran for a 2-point conversion that tied the score 15-15.
As they did last year when leading Eastern Michigan to a 48-38 victory over Army quarterback Tyler Benz and running back Bronson Hill made their presence felt big time. Hill finished with 143 yards rushing and one touchdown. Benz completed 17 of 26 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad, but not as good as last year. And not nearly enough.
What Eastern Michigan was able to do was wrest control of the ball from Army. The Black Knights have had the largest share in time of possession – win or lose – this season. But Saturday they held the ball only 1 minute, 40 seconds longer than the Eagles. Of course, it’s difficult to hold the ball when you’re scoring so quickly. Terry Baggett’s first touchdown was accomplished on one play – a 67-yard run. The drive took 15 seconds. The drive that resulted in Baggett’s 96-yard TD run took one play longer. Baggett’s run followed a Santiago incompletion. That two-play drive took 25 seconds.
The longest Army drive took 7:13. That ended with a Trenton Turrentine 1-yard run.