Army rolls and Navy sails in opening night wins

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 26: Navy Midshipmen quarterback Zach Abey (#9) scores a touchdown during the American Athletic Conference college football game between the SMU Mustangs and the Navy Midshipmen on November 26, 2016, at Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX. Navy won the game 75-31. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire).
Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire

Ignore the fact that Army’s 64-6 victory at home over Fordham fails to balance favorably on college football’s scales with Navy’s 42-19 win at Florida Atlantic in Friday night openers.

Fordham is a Football Championship Subdivision member, Florida Atlantic a Football Bowl Subdivision school coached by offensive whiz Lane Kiffin.

Nevertheless, Fordham provides an intriguing measuring stick for the historic rivals marching to their 118th Army-Navy Game on Dec. 9 in Philadelphia. That’s because Army’s 2017 rout of Fordham compares favorably with Navy opening the 2016 season with a 52-16 domination of Fordham.

That’s a reversal of fortunes from two years ago when Army began the 2015 season losing at home to Fordham, 37-35. It was a dismal start en route to a 2-10 record.

This year’s Fordham victory follows the Black Knights’ breakthrough 2016 campaign. Army finished 8-5 and ended a 14-year losing streak to Navy.

Army fills out roster

A vital step to Army head coach Jeff Monken’s effort to catch up to Navy and Air Force was improved quarterback play. Ahmad Bradshaw is a third-year starter directing the triple-option offense, but now the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder from Chicago also has more talent surrounding him.

That’s why it is meaningless that Bradshaw’s 177 total yards (all rushing) on Friday were down from his 2015 Fordham total of 250 (143 rushing, 107 passing).

Bradshaw opened this season breaking off touchdowns runs of two and 71 yards to finish with nine carries — that’s all he needed for his career-high rushing total. He didn’t complete a pass, but he attempted only two before taking a seat midway through the third quarter.

Fullback Darnell Woolfolk added 10 carries for 95 yards and a 39-yard TD. Senior starting nose guard Andrew McLean blocked a field goal that starting junior cornerback Jalen Sharp returned 75 yards for a touchdown.

“Overall, I’m pleased, because two years ago that team, a very good team, came in here and beat us,” Monken told the media after the game. “We’ll celebrate this one tonight, get our mistakes corrected and get ready for the next one.”

Defensively, Army held Fordham to the FCS power’s lowest point total since a 2015 loss to Villanova, 14-7. The Black Knights had three sacks for 19 yards.

Navy lights up Kiffin’s long night

Navy’s Showtime opener – the Showtime cable network is following the Midshipmen this year with a weekly series that begins on Sept. 5 – included three fourth-quarter lightning delays. The game finally ended after nearly six hours; few fans remained in the stands.

Navy controlled the ball to spoil the mercurial Kiffin’s debut at the Conference USA school. He learned the hard way he’s no longer the head coach of SEC talent at Tennessee (2009), Pac-12 ability at USC (2010-2013), or national championship talent as an offensive coordinator at Alabama (2014-16).

Navy junior quarterback Zach Abey rolled up 345 total yards in his first season-opening start. He ran 32 times for 235 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 40 and 23. He completed 3 of 10 passes for 110 yards with one TD and one interception.

Backup senior fullback Joshua Walker also scored on two touchdown runs of four and 48 yards. He finished with eight carries for 75 yards. Starting senior fullback Chris High made it a 100-yard night for the position. He ran 15 times for 52 yards.

Florida Atlantic’s 326 total yards were less than Abey’s total. The Owls threw for 286 yards but netted only 40 yards rushing. Quarterback Daniel Parr was 19 of 30 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

This is the third year Showtime has chronicled a college football team. The last two were Notre Dame and Florida State.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for the Navy brotherhood to be featured on Showtime,” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. “We are excited to showcase the Navy football culture.”

Follow Tom Shanahan’s FanRag Sports stories on Twitter @shanny4055

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