The 12th game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 150, 2-9) and the arch-rival Navy Midshipmen (Sagarin 74, 7-4.) One of the greatest rivals in college sports has not been much of a game the past decade as Navy has beaten Army 10 years in a row and 13 of the past 15 games.
Both teams beat the Air Force Falcons earlier in the year, so the winner captures the coveted Commander in Chief’s Trophy. Army has not won this trophy since 1996.
At West Point – The Army Defense looked great for the first two plays and it was all down-hill from there. The Temple offense pounded Army into oblivion in a 63-32 route. We felt that the revitalized Army defense would be able to stop a non-motivated Temple Offense – and were completely wrong. Temple only threw 4 passes in the game. They gained 534 rushing yards on 57 attempts, averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Montel Harris had a record setting day as he rushed for 351 yards and scored 7 touchdowns. Harris had just under 600 rushing yards on the season coming into the game.
This game ultimately came down to size and Temple’s ridiculous physical advantage in the trenches. The Temple offensive line was one of the larger units that Army has played this year. Their game plan was to take advantage of that size difference, run the ball between the tackles and wear down the smaller Army Defense. Montel Harris is a good, capable back and may get a shot at the next level, but the Owl offensive line made him look like a first round draft pick. All that having been said, this particular display of defense by the Cadets really pointed out everything that is wrong with the head coach and his defensive staff. Temple’s offensive approach was painfully obvious – put three, four, and sometimes five wide receivers on the field, spread the Army D out, and run all but four offensive plays right between the tackles. At some point, an adjustment should have been made to bring the safeties much closer to the line of scrimmage, go man-to-man with the receivers, play four or five down linemen, and dare the Owls to throw the ball. Instead, Army continued to play the DB’s passively and off the line of scrimmage, and they stayed in their base front with never more than three (and on at least one occasion, just two) down linemen against Temple’s massive O-line. From there, we saw one read-option after another. Army never had enough people in the box to deal with it, and the ones they did have in the box were utterly annihilated by Temple’s blocking. There is no way to know for certain if Army could have done anything differently to stop the Owls’ running attack on this particular day, but it sure looked like this coaching staff was completely out of ideas.
Army’s offense looked good. We expected that 32 points would have won this game. Trent Steelman gained 139 yards on 20 carries and scored 3 touchdowns, setting the career touchdown record for Army. Larry Dixon gained 106 yards on only 9 carries and Raymond Maples had 94 yards on 15 carries.
Overall it was a humbling day. Temple exploited Army’s greatest weakness – size. Army’s defense performs well when they play teams that are pass-oriented or that do not have a discernable size difference. Scheme simply does not matter when the defensive line is blown off the ball. The landscape of college football is changing; it is becoming increasingly difficult to find teams that are not significantly bigger than Army at either the FBC or FCS levels. Army needs to make some commitment to admit and retain larger athletes, as does Navy, to be competitive. The Ivy League and Division III remain the only places where such a small defensive line can be competitive.
At Annapolis – Noah Copeland ran for 110 yards on 17 carries and scored 2 touchdowns as the Mid-shipmen won their seventh game of the season, beating Texas State 21-10.
In a competitive game, Navy gave up 405 total yards to the Bobcat offense, but they held them 5 times on downs and only gave up a single touchdown.
Offensively, Navy had a very typical game, rushing for 407 yards on 62 attempts. Six RBs other than Copeland gained 297 yards on 45 attempts.
What to look for?
In the past 10 years, we have seen Army lose this game in every conceivable way. Whether it be fumbles, fumbles returned for touchdowns, blocked punts – Army has created different ways to lose this football game every year. Not one time in this drought has Army been physically mismatched.
Army can win this game. In their win against Air Force, they dominated both lines of scrimmage. Linebacker and safety play was fantastic for 3 quarters. The running backs hit the holes and Trent Steelman was stellar.
To win this game, Trent Steelman will need to be stellar again. It will mean that he will have make the correct reads, complete a handful of passes and, most importantly, not fumble. As he did in the Air Force game, he will need to take this team on his back and lead them to victory.
We think that the Black Knight defense, not being overmatched physically, will contain the Navy offense. However, it will probably take 5 touchdowns to win this game.
In a week where Army may actually enter the Big East, Trent Steelman will play his last football game as a Cadet and, hopefully, Rich Ellerson will coach his last game at Army. This will be a very emotional and larger than life game. We will grip hands and cheer the Black Knights and watch Trent Steelman leave the field a winner.
Who is favored?
No Line is available yet, but Navy should be favored by 10 points.
Final Score –Army 35 – Navy 28v
(Predictions this year 4-7)
Game will be shown on CBS @ 3:00 EST.
Picks from the Ridge
(Predictions this year 12-10)
South Alabama +5.5 @ Hawaii
Baylor +4 vs. Oklahoma State
Middle Tennessee +10 @ Arkansas St.
Kansas +19.5 @ West Virginia