Photo: Andy Davidson
One good push in the back from Army fullback Andy Davidson deserves another.
Davidson drew praise from the CBS broadcasters Ben Holden and Jay Feely for pushing quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw in the back on key short-yardage plays that helped the Black Knights beat Duke last week, 21-16.
The win was Army’s sixth straight and lifted the Black Knights to an 8-2 record with votes among others in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls. Army plays Saturday at North Texas (7-3) and finishes the regular season against Navy (6-3) on Dec. 9 in Philadelphia.
But Davidson said he received too much credit.
“On those quarterback sneaks, the offensive line got such a good push he didn’t really need the push from me,” Davidson said. “It was kind of an insurance push. I gave a little shove for an extra couple of inches. It’s the offensive line does such a good job.”
The “push in the back” Davidson preferred to credit was one he received from linebacker Cole Christiansen. With Army leading 7-3 early in the second quarter, Davidson blocked a punt that Javhari Bourdeau scooped up and returned 25 yards for a touchdown.
“I don’t think I would have got the block without the assist he gave me,” Davidson said.
Here’s what happened: Duke punted from a shield formation, meaning three big bodies placed in front of the punter. But having three blockers in the backfield can leave a linemen unaccounted for. Davidson shot from the down position unblocked on the right side of Army’s line. Then he bulled his 6-foot-2, 235-pound fullback-trained body into the three blockers.
“The shield scheme makes it hard to block a punt,” Davidson said. “If there weren’t three (teammates) next to me, I don’t I would have got to it. I just tried to get between the (the shield blockers) and then I got a little lucky with the extra push from Cole Christiansen. It was a big momentum play for the team.”
Army suddenly had a two-score lead after trailing earlier, 3-0. The Black Knights extended their lead to 21-3 before the Blue Devils mounted a comeback that fell short in the fourth quarter.
Although Army didn’t score again, long drives Bradshaw kept alive on sneaks kept the ball away from Duke for large chunks of the game. Army controlled the ball for 12:57 in the fourth period despite a drive ending in a blocked field goal.
When Bolden and Feely described Davidson’s pushes, they hearkened back to the famed “Bush Push” from the 2005 USC-Notre Dame game. USC running back Reggie Bush -- the disgraced 2005 Heisman Trophy winner that had to return the award -- pushed quarterback Matt Leinart in the back for the winning score to keep alive No. 1-ranked USC’s unbeaten season before a prime-time TV audience.
The difference, though, was Bush’s push should have been flagged as a penalty. Since then the rule has been changed. Davidson’s pushes were legal.
Hearing Davidson, who finished the game with 10 carries for 64 yards, deflect praise for both the pushes in the back he provided Bradshaw and the one received from Christian is another example of Army football’s “brotherhood” that is about selfless play.
He has been ready to produce despite losing his starting job last year to Darnell Woolfolk this season.
Davidson had enjoyed a breakout season in 2016. He led the Black Knights in rushing with 818 yards and in touchdowns with nine. But a shoulder injury late in the season and Darnell Woolfolk’s continued improvement led to him falling behind Woolfolk on this year’s depth chart.
Woolfolk was leading the Black Knights ground game early until he missed three games with an injury. He is third with 548 yards and shares the team lead in touchdowns with Bradshaw with nine. Davidson is fourth with 445 yards and two touchdowns. He's averaging 5.4 yards a carry.
“Darnell is a really good player that has kept getting better,” Davidson said. “He can do a lot things in the backfield that others can’t do. He’s a great player for us. I do my role when I can to help the team win football games.”
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