Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Army Football Preview: at Western Kentucky

Saturday’s game-winning interception against UConn was easily the best moment Army Football fans have had all season.  Unfortunately, however, the events leading up to it were hauntingly familiar.  Army got off to an early lead in Yankee Stadium, moved the ball well, executed an excellent fake-punt, and controlled the game’s time-of-possession.  As great as the early-going was, though, even a fourteen point lead wasn’t safe.  Army went up 28-14 with less than four-and-a-half minutes left to play, and then all hell broke loose.  Once UConn started opening things, the Black Knights’ defense broke down.  Connecticut scored quickly and then recovered an onside kick.  
We’ve seen so many blown chances this season, I know I wasn’t the only one dreading another.

With the win, Army is now 3-6, tied with its record from last year, and looking to take strides in the right direction.  This week the Army team travels to Western Kentucky for what promises to be a tough outing.
Army: the Black Knights
After nine games, the Army Black Knights are ranked dead last in passing (128th, 69.1 yrds/game) and 6th in rushing (298.3 yds/game).  The team is 94th in points scored (24.8 pts/game) and 103rd in points allowed (32.8 pts/game).  That yields a p-wins score of 34% or 4 games in a 12-game season.  From what I’ve seen, the team has done a good job forcing turnovers these last few weeks, even against good teams, but they still have a tendency to lay the ball on the ground via botched center-quarterback exchanges, and the defense still breaks down in the fourth quarter, especially against bigger opponents.  With the possible exception of Yale, every team Army has played has had bigger players.  Still, Army is at least moving the ball with some consistency.  They are never going to be world-beaters, but they should have a chance in any game where they can sustain drives and control time-of-possession.  That is not asking too much from a triple-option offense.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers currently sit at 4-5, fourth in Conference USA-East.  They scored 21 unanswered points late against UTEP, winning a dramatic come-from-behind victory.  QB Brandon Doughty went 23/34 (67.6%) for 324 yards and three touchdowns, and DB Wonderful Terry had a 90-yard interception returned for a touchdown late in the game to clinch the victory.  
WKU Hilltoppers
The Hilltoppers are currently 2
nd in passing in FBS football with an average of 371 yards/game while rushing for an average of 133.2 yards/game (101st).  With an offense like that, it’s no surprise that they’re scoring points.  In fact, the Hilltoppers are 10th in points scored (40.4), but they’re 124th in points allowed (41.6).  Bottom line, this is a team that has been in some shootouts.  They may get down early, but even if they do, they won’t panic.  They already know that they can come from behind and win games.
Against a team like Western Kentucky, the game plan seems obvious.  Run the ball, control the clock, keep their offense off the field, and force turnovers wherever possible.  I doubt it will be that easy.  I watched Western Kentucky beat Navy, and in that game, they took it to the Midshipmen with some authority.  Navy did a decent job moving the ball at times, but the Hilltoppers hit hard and forced mistakes.  That was more than enough to win the day.  I believe that Army can win this game, but if they do, it will be the Black Knights’ best win of the season.  The fact that the game is on the road makes it that much harder.  I want to believe that the arrow is pointing up on Army’s season, but this weekend’s game promises a tough test for the team.
Air Assault!
Army will wear the 101st Airborne Division patch this weekend.  Kickoff is at noon on CBS Sports.  As of this writing, Army is getting 10.5 points.  That’s not a bad line.  Last week the odds-makers gave Army a 31% chance of winning outright, and they came through.  Still, unless the over/under turns out to be over-55, I think the Over is probably the better play.  I’ll be quite surprised if both teams don’t move the ball well.  
Best case scenario, Army gets up early and holds on, avoiding mistakes.  If they do that, they can win.

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