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In their first game since the ACRC Bowl Series loss against Life, the sixth-ranked Black Knights battled back to defeat UMass, 28-16, in West Point, N.Y. Down by two points early in the second half, Jamison Garacci scored in the 68th minute to give Army the lead and the Black Knight defense preserved the victory.
Army got the first shot to score in the early goings after kicking for touch at the 50-meter line. The Army forwards mauled from five meters out, and Andrew Fargo broke through the defensive front for the try. Dom Larkin followed with the conversion and the 7-0 lead. UMass responded with forcing Army into a penalty that lined up scrumhalf Brendan Kelly for a 20-meter boot. The kick was true, and Army held the slim four-point lead, 7-3.
Both team tested each other for the next 30 minutes until Army eventually worked its way downfield for Fargo’s second try. With time dwindling, UMass got the ball back after the ensuing kickoff and was able to draw two penalties to put the Minutemen in position for a penalty kick from 30 meters out. Kelly nailed his second PK, but Army maintained a 14-6 advantage at the half.
The Minutemen came out of the half on a mission and drew first blood with a penalty kick by Kelly. 20 minutes later, UMass’s forwards were threatening with a multi-phase attack within Army’s 22. Prop Todd Theodat received the ball from 25 meters out and proceeded to dummy and stiff-arm the defenders to score in the corner. With Kelly’s conversion, UMass took the lead, 16-14.
UMass was looking to extend its advantage, but a penalty turned the momentum to Army’s favor and set the Black Knights at the five-meter line. After a turnover, Army stole the scrum and Jamison Garacci scored from a pick and go. Larkin kicked the conversion, and the Black Knights regained the 21-16 lead. UMass battled until the last minute, taking risky chances to tie the game. Trying to make a play from their own five meter line with no time left, The Minutemen turned over the ball, resulting in an easy try for Army for the final score of 28-16.
“We definitely didn’t get out muscled,” UMass captain Devin Ibanez said. “It wasn’t a matter of them taking it to us and us being unable to match their physicality. We did a really good job at making our tackles and being physical with them. We were really good at attacking their weaknesses and not just running into their strengths, which for them are their big forwards. They have a really strong tight five.”
UMass coach Bill Ciccarelli noted the play of his flankers, Ben Brzoski and Devin Ibanez, along with senior prop Todd Theodat and sophomore scrumhalf Brendan Kelly, as the outstanding performers of the match.
“Ben's rib rattling tackling and physicality made a huge impact, while Todd Theodat's long runs and broken tackles provided a big boost for UMass. Devin Ibanez was all over the field establishing himself at the breakdown and with the ball in hand, he had several line breaks and had a strong game overall. Brendan Kelly may have been the UMass MVP for the day after he controlled the game with his kicking ability both off the tee and out of hand.”