Head-to-head: Army vs. VMI

Army returns to Michie Stadium following their disappointing loss to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the new Meadowlands Stadium. Army took a 17-3 halftime lead only to lose in overtime 23-20. VMI enters the game coming off one of their best performances of the year. The Keydets defeated Charleston Southern 34-16. Last year Army struggled to beat VMI at Michie Stadium 22-17.

Pat Mealy's career high 136 yard rushing effort helped the Black Knights avoid a potentially embarrassing home defeat.

Army rushing offense
VMI rushing defense
Army averaged nearly five yards a carry and rushed for 289 yards and two touchdowns against a physical Rutgers team that ranked 10th in nation in rushing defense. Jared Hassin posted his second straight 100 yard rushing 118 yards on 16 carries. Hassin showed his speed on 50-yard run that set up his own 6-yard TD run. Trent Steelman ran for 102 yards on 27 carries but had two costly turnovers with a fumble and a poor pitch behind Brian Cobbs. Malcolm Brown has rushed for 308 yards this year and 3 touchdowns. Cobbs has rushed for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns. Pat Mealy returned to the starting lineup against Rutgers. On the tear Mealy has rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Last year the Black Knights were able to get to the edge effectively against the Keydets. After center Zac Peterson was injured at the beginning of fourth quarter Army's running game was shutdown against Rutgers. Without Peterson Army rushed 14 times for only 24 yards the rest of the fourth quarter. Peterson is expected to play against VMI. VMI has allowed 28 points a game. They play a 3-4 defense and have held teams to 124 .7 rushing yards a game. They allow only 3.3 yards per carry. The Keydets rank 25th in the FCS in run defense. The leading tackler for VMI is Mike linebacker A.J. Gross who has 68 tackles including 7.5 for a loss this year. Gross has forced a fumble and recovered one already. Army had trouble blocking Gross in last year's game when he made nine tackles against the Black Knights. Strong safety Byron Allen is fast and very physical in run support. Allen was a second team All-Big South selection last year when he led the conference defensive backs in tackles. On the year Allen has 50 tackles. Up front the key matchup is nose tackle Josh Wine against Army center Zac Peterson. Wine, a preseason All-Big South selection, already has 37 tackles which is a lot for a nose tackle. Wine is a top NCAA wrestler and plays with great leverage and uses his hands well. One of VMI's best players, linebacker Emilio Calvin, is out with an injury, but the Keydets are usually effective against teams that run at them. They allowed only 3.5 yards a carry against Virginia on the road earlier this year.  
Army passing offense
VMI passing defense
Trent Steelman on the season has completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 503 yards, 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. Trent Steelman completed 8 of 14 passes for 115 yards against Rutgers. Trent missed a sure touchdown pass on first drive of second half. Steelman overthrew a wide open Brian Cobbs on a fourth down pass that would have been a touchdown. Steelman also overthrew an open Davyd Brooks from his own end zone. He did a nice job running the two minute offense before the end of the first half. Against Rutgers Brian Cobbs had two catches for 47 yards. Hassin had two catches for 30 yards. Brooks contributed with two catches for 24 yards including a 19 yard reception. Brooks, after a few quiet games earlier in the year, has been getting open regularly lately. The offensive line was terrific against Rutgers allowing no sacks against a very athletic Scarlet Knight front line. VMI enters the game ranked 84th in the FCS in pass defense. In their game against Charleston Southern the Keydets picked off four passes. Teams generally pass more on the Keydets because their run defense is rather stout. Up front nose tackle Josh Wine has two sacks this year and can get pressure on the quarterback. Athletic right defensive end Damiso Alexander has good quickness off the edge. He has 3.5 sacks this year. Free safety Trae Watkins has 37 tackles, two interceptions and three passes batted down this year. Cornerback Greg Walker intercepted a pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown last week.  
VMI rushing offense
Army rushing defense
The Keydets field a very young team and switched to a pro style passing game in the spring. They have struggled to run the ball this year out of the new formation. VMI is averaging just 68 rushing yards a game. They average just 2.4 yards per carry. The Keydets leading rusher is Chaz Jones with 221 yards. Jones scored three touchdowns against Charleston Southern. Gabe Itoka has run for 243 yards but averages just 3.4 yards a carry. Former option quarterback Cam Jones can make plays with his legs. Last year after coming off the bench against Army, Jones rushed three times for 100 yards including a 68-yard run that set up a VMI touchdown. Army front seven did a tremendous job against Rutgers. Army held RU to just 65 yards total offense including only 24 rushing yards in the first half. They beat Rutgers consistently at the point of attack. Currently the Black Knights rank 25th in the nation in rushing defense. Rover Steve Erzinger, whose play has been inconsistent this year, had a career best 14 tackles against Rutgers. Stephen Anderson had five tackles and forced a fumble in overtime that Rutgers unfortunately recovered. Marcus Hilton had five tackles. Cornerback Aaron Antuan made a nice tackle on Mohamed Sanu short of the end zone to force a field goal against Rutgers. Army's defensive front should dominate VMI's offensive line.  
VMI passing offense
Army passing defense
Sparky Woods switching his offense away from the option and to a drop back style passing game. To put it mildly its been a work in progress. Three Keydet quarterbacks have seen significant time this year yet none have impressed. Collectively they are completing just 47.7% of their passes for eight touchdowns against 12 interceptions. VMI freshman quarterback Eric Kornenbrock made his first career start this past weekend but was forced to leave the game on VMI's second drive when his throwing hand was injured. Cam Jones took over and rushed for 20 yards while completing just 10 of 29 passes for 114 yards. Converted slot back T.J. Talley leads VMI with 23 catches for 245 yards and a touchdown. Last year's leading receiver Mario Scott has 19 catches for 254 yards. Scott has the speed to get deep as he's produced three touchdowns including an 80-yard touchdown against Stony Brook. VMI's offensive linemen were recruited to play in an option offense and are having trouble protecting their quarterback. They have allowed 17 sacks this year. Army posted an academy record eight sacks in the game with a tremendous defensive effort against Rutgers Josh McNary posted 2.5 sacks against Rutgers and has 9.5 sacks this year. McNary is simply one of the premier pass rushing defensive ends in the nation. Bandit tackle Jarrett Mackey had the best game of his career against Rutgers and was credited with seven tackles and 1.5 sacks. Defensive end Marcus Hilton had his second sack of the year against Rutgers. VMI's struggling passing game will have trouble making any plays if it can't protect the passer. Safety Donovan Travis looks to be back to 100 percent after having played weeks with a sore shoulder. He recorded 12 tackles and had an interception against Rutgers. SAM safety Donnie Dixon had three tackles, a pass defensed, a sack and a quarterback hurry. He was very effective on the blitz against the Scarlet Knights. VMI's wide receivers do not offer the size and speed that has given Army cornerbacks trouble at times this year.  
Special Teams
VMI kicker Jeff Sexton has hit 6 of 10 attempts this year. His longest field goal this year is 44 yards. Punter Marc Ray was a preseason All Big South selection . Ray has been inconsistent at times this year averaging 37.9 yards on 45 punts. He has hit four punts over 50 yards. Mario Scott averages 20.3 on his kickoff returns. The Keydets generally do a good job in kickoff coverage allowing only 18.9 yards a return. VMI did allow an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Virginia. Michael Rainey-Wiles is a very good punt returner. He has averaged 16.1 yards including a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown. VMI struggles covering punts allowing 11.5 yards a return. The Keydets gave up one punt return for a touchdown. Army's Alex Carlton hit two of his three attempts against Rutgers. On the season Carlton has hit just 6 of 13 field goal attempts. Carlton had hit just one of six attempts from over forty yards. Lack of confidence in kicking game cost Army when Ellerson elected to go for it on fourth down against Rutgers and failed to make it rather than attempting another 40-yard field goal. Punter Jonathan Bulls, averaging 39.9 yards per punt this season, pinned Rutgers inside their 20 once. Bulls had a clutch 46-yard punt from his own 11 that he placed out of bounds with 1:36 left in regulation. Bulls once again gave the opposition nothing to return as the punt coverage was terrific allowing only four yards on two punt returns. Zach Watts has been a special teams ace the past two games. Watts had another big play blocking a punt that Sean Westphal recovered. It set up the Black Knights' first touchdown. Josh Jackson has averaged 7.5 a punt return for Army but is questionable for Saturday with a sore ankle.  
Rich Ellerson will have to make sure his team stays focused with the Air Force game to follow. VMI's coach Sparky Woods is in the middle of a transition year as the Keydets switched from the option to a pro style attack. Woods had great success at Division 1-AA Appalachian State in the eighties before spending five years as South Carolina's head coach. Woods is 9-20 at VMI which hasn't experienced a winning season since 1981.  
The Black Knights received a scare from the Keydets who nearly defeated them at home last year. If it wasn't for Patrick Mealy's and Ali Villanueva's fourth quarter play Army would have lost. With that memory fresh in their minds and a week off I doubt Army will overlook VMI. The Keydets enter the game with confidence following a road conference win after being badly outplayed by Liberty the week before.  

PREDICTION: Army 45-7. I really don't see a chance for VMI in this game. VMI defense does a good job against the run but their offense struggles with turnovers and moving the ball. VMI's offense is averaging just 18.4 points a game. Their defense spends too much time on the field. The Keydets have been overwhelmed when facing any decent competition this year. Their offense is made to order for the Army's double eagle flex defense. The Keydets can't run the ball effectively. Their passing game struggles with consistency and commits turnovers. VMI lacks the type of tall playmakers at wide receiver that give the Black Knights trouble. The Keydets have a difficult time protecting their quarterback. VMI had its chance for a upset last year. This year Army should roll.

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