Army rolls over Middle Tennessee 42-0 in first home shutout since 2011

WEST POINT, New York – No crowd. No problem. 

Army displayed its brilliant run game, threw in a couple pass completions and turned three of four Middle Tennessee turnovers into touchdowns in a dominating 42-0 season-opening rout before 5,249 at Michie Stadium. Army was listed as a field-goal favorite. 

“I was really pleased with the way our guys played,’’ Army head coach Jeff Monken said. “I thought it was a complete game. There are going to be things we see that were errors and we have to correct, but I am really proud of our staff and the plan they put together.’’ 

With new defensive coordinator Nate Woody making his Army debut, the Black Knights posted their first home shutout since beating Fordham, 55-0, on Oct. 29, 2011. The last season-opening home shutout came Sept. 11, 1993, when Army beat Colgate, 30-0. 

“I don’t know if a first game could have gone better than it did today,’’ Monken said. 

Typically, a crowd of over 30,000 would have been present for the first collegiate weekend of the season, full of pageantry and tailgating under glorious weather conditions. But in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic the audience was restricted to 4,400 cadets who were socially distanced around three-quarters of the stands, making it the first athletic event in New York to have spectators since the pandemic restrictions started in March. 

“I think the Corps of Cadets did a really great job,’’ quarterback Christian Anderson said. “They were really energized, and it made it seem like we had a crowd there. … The Corps did a great job of being the 12th man in the stands.’’ 

Sandon McCoy tied his career high with three touchdowns for the Black Knights. (Photo: Vincent Carchietta, USA TODAY Sports)

At 11:30 a.m., some two hours before kick off, the cadets, dressed in green battle fatigues, made their way up Mills Road, bordering the glimmering Lusk Reservoir, and slowly made their way into the stands. The cadets spread out over 24 of the 32 sections of bleacher seating, but none in the East stands, behind the Middle Tennessee bench. 

The East stands weren’t barren, however, as cardbord cutouts of parents and fans adorned the lower row of seats of sections 28 and 29, at least giving the impression of support. 

“There are a lot of people playing college football this weekend and the coming weeks,’’ Monken said, “and they will play before empty stadiums. It was nice to have a little home-field advantage.’’ 

Despite no spring ball and a shortened preseason, Army didn’t miss a step. Sandon McCoy tied his career high with three short touchdown runs in the first half. The Black Knights posted no fumbles and rolled up 368 yards of offense — most under the guidance of the junior Anderson — while the defense held the Raiders to 184 yards. 

“I thought everyone as a whole on offense worked together and we did a great job executing our plays,’’ Anderson said.

McCoy, who scored on runs of 1, 2 and 4 yards inside the opening 22 minutes, said he wanted to reward his linemen. 

“If I could, I would take them all out and buy them steak dinners,’’ he said. 

Ty Robinson was impressive, leading the Black Knights with 94 yards on nine carries. Anderson rushed for 52 yards on 10 attempts and McCoy had 50 yards on 15 carries. In all, seven Army players rushed for at least 29 yards, showing depth.

“I have a lot of confidence in this entire team,’’ McCoy added, “but especially the offense. We have been working really hard over the past couple months and we are ready to play.’’ 

The Army defense also proved very effective, keeping heralded MTSU quarterback Asher O’Hara in check. 

“We brought great pressure and played really well in the secondary,’’ said linebacker Jon Rhattigan, whose fumble recovery less than two minutes into the game set the stage. “Overall, all assets of our defense were clicking.’’ 

O’Hara, with his vaunted run abilities, was held to 18 yards on 10 carries, and he completed nine of 14 throws for 46 yards and was intercepted twice. He gave way to Chase Cunningham in the third quarter. 

Follow Ken McMillan on Twitter @KenMcMillanTHR

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