April 22, 2006
Black/Gold Game Statistics
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Michael Herndon's 5-yard touchdown run capped the second overtime, providing the game's lone score in a contest dominted by the defenses as the Gold Team secured a 6-0 victory in Army's annual Black/Gold Game at soggy Michie Stadium Saturday afternoon.
A former linebacker vying to move into the Black Knights' backfield rotation, Herndon bulled to paydirt on a rush over right tackle where he cut outside and dove through a potential tackle en route to the end zone. His score came on Gold's second play of the overtime and was set up when quarterback Kevin Dunn hit fullback Tim Frye on a 20-yard screen pass that advanced the ball to the 5 yard line.
Each team had chances to win the game with field goals, both late in regulation and during each of the first three overtime possessions.
Gold kicker Jared Nielsen, attempting to unseat incumbent Justin Koenig as Army's leading placekicker, saw his 32-yard field goal attempt sail just right of the upright with 1:49 to play in the contest. Gold's scoring opportunity was created when defensive back Jordan Murray picked off a David Pevoto pass at the Black 27-yard line with 3:49 remaining. On a 3rd-and-2 play, Pevoto was about to be sacked when he tried to find an open receiver. However, his pass went awry and Murray registered the interception.
Koenig and Patrick Saxby
each had chances to put Black on the board in overtime, but Koenig's 29-yard boot was wide left at the end of the first session while Saxby's 48-yard attempt was on target, but short, at the conclusion of Black's second OT possession. One play prior to Saxby's boot, defensive tackle Peter Harrington
sacked Pevoto for a 10-yard loss on 3rd-and-6.
On Gold's first possession of overtime, Adam DeMarco's game-winning attempt from 29-yards out slipped just left of its intended mark. DeMarco's miss would not come back to haunt Gold because two plays after Saxby's subsequent miss, Herndon punched in the day's lone score.
Head coach Bobby Ross exited Saturday's game impressed with the play of his defensive units, but displeased with the offensive execution and the efficiency of the placekickers. He also admitted that even though the game was scoreless in regulation, he was determined to play until the outcome was decided.
"It took us a long time to score some points. I didn't expect it to go to overtime," Ross said. "We were going to have a winner and a loser no matter what, even if we had to stay out here until 11 o'clock at night."
The two offenses combined for just 375 total yards on 124 plays, with Gold outgaining Black 235-140. The teams also combined for 12 punts and there were three interceptions in the contest. In addition to Murray's theft, defensive backs Kevin Opoku and Josh Mitchell registered pickoffs.
"It felt good to pitch a shutuout in the spring game," linebacker Barrett Scruggs, voted as one of the team's four captains for this fall, said following Saturday's action. "We did some good things out there today. We were flying to the ball and had some big hits. We still have things to work on, but I was happy with our effort today."
"I wasn't particularly pleased, offensively," Ross said. "I'll look at the film to see what went wrong, or why we weren't moving the ball like I thought we could move the ball. Defensively, we are better, and that has something to do with it.
"I thought our defensive line was pretty physical today. I liked that. I saw (Cason) Shrode moving around quite a bit. He's got to be a very big-time player for us, and he can be. He needs to be really consistent for us. I was very pleased with our two safeties. We have two good players there.
Shrode and safety Caleb Campbell each forged seven tackles for the Gold team. Led by Harrrington at tackle (six tackles) and Brandon Thompson at end (five hits), Gold's defensive line amassed 30 tackles. Starters Cameron Craig and Tony Fusco were involved in five and four stops, respectively.
For Black, backup linebacker Brian Chmura was active throughout the day, compiling a game-high eight stops. Defensive end John Wright added seven hits, along with one sack. In all, both defenses combined for five sacks, with Elliott Antoine notching one for Black while Thompson, Harrington and Matt Hernandez recorded sacks for Gold.
"Defensively, I think we have the chance to be much improved. We are bigger. We are stronger. I think we have a little more speed. I like all of the things that I see there. But we can be better offensively than what we showed today, and we are going to have to be better," Ross added.
While the game was not as crisp offensively as he might have liked, Army's veteran field general is optimistic that the Black Knights can dramatically improve their offensive execution during fall camp. Additionally, he attributed some of the offense's inefficient play on Saturday to the nature of the intrasquad scrimmage.
"The things that we have to (fix) are correctible and we have time to do it. There is work to be done, in both phases, but more offensively than defensively. I was a little disappointed in our offensive line, because I thought we would run the ball a little bit better. I'll have to see what happened there," the Black Knights' mentor said. "We had some opportunities where we might (normally) go into a power type of (offense), but we didn't have the people (on each team) to do that. That would certainly have helped us sustain a drive or two. I still expected us to do a little better job offensively."
Gold's defense, comprised of the Black Knights' lead unit, kept the Black offense in check throughout the first half, forcing four punts and halting one drive on downs during Black's five first-half drives. In all, Black managed just 51 yards prior to intermission.
Meanwhile, pickoffs by Opoku and Mitchell eradicated a pair of Gold scoring chances on back-to-back possessions. Late in the first quarter, on a 3rd-and-9 from the Black 33, Opoku stepped in front of a Patrick McDonald pass at the Black 26 after Gold had moved into enemy territory for the first time.
After a three-and-out by Black following Opoku's interception, Gold marched from its own 41 into the red zone, but Kevin Dunn's 2nd-and-9 pass from the 17 yard line, intended for Jamison Maehler, was corralled in the end zone by Mitchell. Prior to that pass, Dunn had guided the Gold squad 42 yards on eight plays, including converting a key third down play when he fumbled the snap, picked up the loose pigskin and scampered seven yards on a 3rd-and-6.
With only three quarterbacks in uniform, Ross saw his club down to two signal callers after McDonald got hurt early in the second quarter. Prior to his injury, McDonald was 2 of 5 for 28 yards, with one interception. Dunn, who was originally slated to serve as the backup for both teams, played exclusively for Gold thereafter, finishing 6 of 15 for 54 yards and one pick.
Pevoto, who entered Saturday's game atop the depth chart at quarterback, completed 16 of his 26 aerials for 90 yards.
"I had some passes that I missed, and I wish I could have back," Pevoto admitted after the game. "I tried to focus and help move us down the field. But, we didn't convert on some third-down-and-long situations."
"I don't think we got reasonably good quarterback play" Ross said. "I think we can help that by the things that we do (in our offensive scheme). We weren't doing all of those things today. We didn't play as well today as we had been playing at that position in the spring. When McDonald got hurt early, we were down to two. And I didn't want anything (to happen) to either of those two, so we had to get very, very conservative."
When asked about the play of Pevoto, who is battling with McDonald and Dunn for the chance to fill the void created by the graduation of record-setting signal caller Zac Dahman, Ross offered the following, "His performance was average. I was expecting better. I think he would come out and say he expects more. We didn't seem to be rhythmic with our passing, number one, and I thought there were a few times we threw the ball away with an interception. We should never do that and we should never give a team to score in that situation."
Playing for the Black unit, tight end Tim Dunn, who started seven games last fall and is expected this fall to assume the overall lead duties once held by the graduating Jared Ulekowski, topped all receivers with six catches for 37 yards. Jeremy Trimble added three catches (12 yards) for Black with Elliott Emerich topping Gold by hauling in three aerials for 33 yards.
With Ross keeping a keen eye on his running backs as he searches for a suitable replacement for two-time 1,000-yard rusher Carlton Jones, Gold's backfield helped its team dominate the ground game Saturday.
Tony Dace amassed 66 yards on 14 carries, while Herndon gained 32 yards on 10 totes, as Gold accumulated 153 rushing yards on 46 attempts. Black had 32 attempts, but gained just 50 yards. Jamal Robinson's 37 yards were the most by a Black backfield member.
"When you divide the teams up, you lose a little continuity," Ross explained. "We did keep the first offense against the first defense and second offense against the second defense, but we don't get everybody into the flow of things like we might like. I don't know if any of (the running backs) jumped out. Robinson is still in the lead. He did do some decent things. We didn't run much option because I didn't want to take the chance for one of our quarterbacks getting hurt."
Army will open preseason camp in August, with all eyes focused on the Black Knights' Sept. 2 season opener at Arkansas State. That game will mark the earliest season-opening game in Army's 117-year grid history.