Key Matchups: Army vs. Temple

The fifth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 91, 3-1) and the Mid-American East Conference Temple Owls (Sagarin 50, 3-1.) Army leads the all time series 4-3, however Temple has won the previous two meetings. The Owls beat the Black Knights, 27-13, in a well played game at Temple last year.

The Owls look to rebound after a tough loss to perennial powerhouse Penn State, while Army looks to make this a magical season and break out to a 4-1 start.

 

Last Week

Army took advantage of 5 Duke turnovers, held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and upset the Duke Blue Devils 35-21.

 

It has been many years since the Army football team put on as impressive a performance as they did against the Duke Blue Devils last Saturday. Inexplicably, the Duke offense opened the game with five passing attempts out of its first seven plays from scrimmage. By the time the last of those plays was finished, Army had a complete strangle hold on the proceedings, and Duke was forced to "chase" the game in the searing North Carolina heat. Unbelievable to think that after so many losing seasons, Army could be on the road against an ACC opponent, look up at the clock with more than a quarter to go, and enjoy an extended period of "garbage time". For whatever reason, Duke insisted on trying to move the ball through the air early in the contest. They learned the hard way, as many teams are now starting to learn, and as we are all seeing for ourselves week in and week out, that attacking Army through the air is simply not the smartest way to go.

 

Duke gift-wrapped Army a 14-0 lead after less than 10 minutes of game time had elapsed (and a holding penalty nullified a 3rd Army touchdown in that span). From there it was just a relentless and methodical beating that the Black Knights administered in every phase of the game. Although the final stats were skewed by a number of big plays by the Blue Devils after Army made the score 35-7, the massive advantages in time of possession and turnover margin made it little wonder that the rout was on not long after the halftime break.

 

Army gained 333 yards on offense, 248 on the ground.  They did that without Patrick Mealy and with only 6 carries from Jarred Hassin. Slotbacks Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs continued to flash exceptional speed as they consistently gained big yardage running outside, this time against a presumably faster and more athletic defense. Duke put 9 defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and Trent Steelman burned them twice, with touchdown passes to Raymond Maples and Austin Barr.   On the day, Steelman rushed 18 times for 62 yards and was 4-6 for 85.  The statistics do not show what a great game he called.  Nor do the statistics show the incredible perimeter blocking that allowed Army to consistently move the ball around the perimeter.

 

Army's defense was simply fantastic.  They did allow 372 total yards, however most of that was in the 4th quarter when Army was simply trying to grind time and end the game.

 

In Happy Valley, Temple led the Nittany Lions at the half, but their superstar RB Bernard Pierce went down with an ankle sprain, Temple needed to throw the ball and Penn State pulled the game out.  It was the 28th straight PSU victory over the Owls, but this was certainly one of the best games of the series. 

 

The Temple defense allowed 439 yards, but forced 5 field goals and kept their team in the game.    Temple committed four turnovers, which did not help their cause.

 

Who is favored?

Temple is favored by 4.5 points.

 

What to look for?

In all the years we have been following the Black Knights, it is pretty easy to recall all the big games that Army has played against the other service academies. It is not so easy to recall so many big games against non-service academy opponents. Typically, games against such opponents as Boston College, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, etc. haven't been so much big games as they have been novelties - games where the expectations have been minimal, spectacular results are fondly remembered, but mostly, these games have resulted in blowout losses that have had hardly any impact overall on the fortunes of the team, providing little more than the opportunity for our guys to share the big stage with the big boys for a few hours.

 

Well, this week we have a completely different kind of big game for Army, one we haven't seen in these parts for a regular season, non-service academy game in at least 20 years. A victory in this game would almost certainly assure our Black Knights of bowl eligibility. With opponents such as Tulane, Kent State and VMI yet to play, it would be unthinkable and downright impossible for Army to win this game and then lose six of its last seven. A loss in this contest, and Army would still have to find three more victories out of a very difficult 2nd half schedule.

 

So into this scenario come the Owls of Temple. Once upon a time, a game against Temple would have been about as much of a cakewalk as you could get. This, however, is a different era in Temple football. In 2006, Head Coach Al Golden inherited a dismal, downtrodden program which had been kicked out of the Big East Conference for being non-competitive, and in four seasons he brought them to bowl eligibility and the Eagle Bank Bowl. They are coming off a very impressive performance of their own last week, despite losing to Penn State in Happy Valley. Normally they are led by their all world running back, but Pierce, who scored two touchdowns against the Nittany Lions, went down, and his status for this contest is unknown.

 

Temple is a very good and improving football team that has had a great start to its season. They are not Boston College or Notre Dame. This is a winnable game for the Black Knights, especially if Pierce is limited or unable to play. There still has not been an opponent willing or able to test the ability of Army's defensive front seven to stop the run. The presence of a healthy Pierce certainly would have presented that challenge, but without him it seems unlikely that Temple will be able to hurt the Black Knights on the ground. Army is playing at an exceptionally high level in all phases of the game right now, and Temple could be without its franchise player. You could not ask for a better set of circumstances for Army given the magnitude of this game and the post-season ramifications involved.

 

Army's offense will certainly be challenged as the Owls are big and fast on defense.  It will certainly help if Mealy and Hassin are able to play.  If Pierce is out and Temple is forced to throw or attempt to run with their other backs, Army should contain them.  If Army plays with few errors and continues to execute, this could be their day and a huge step forward for the program.

 

 

Final Score – Army 24 – Temple 17 (predictions 2010, 2-2)

 

Game will be shown on CBSCSTV, 12:00PM EST.


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