Head-to-head: Army vs. Kent State

The Army Black Knights will travel to Kent, Ohio to face the Kent State Golden Flashes on Saturday. Army enters the game coming off a disappointing loss at home to Air Force which defeated Army, 42-22. Kent State fell last weekend to the Temple Owls, 28-10. Army defeated Kent State 17-14 in their only previous meeting back in 2006.

Kent State
Army rushing offense
Kent State rushing defense
The Black Knights currently are ranked eighth in the country in rushing. "B" back Jared Hassin ran for over one 100 yards for the fourth straight game. Hassin has run for 783 yards this year and eight touchdowns. He had another costly fumble that popped directly into the arms of the Falcons linebacker Waiwaiole and was returned 52 yards for a touchdown, essentially ending Army hopes. Hassin needs to protect the ball better. Trent Steelman rushed for 65 yards against the Falcons. For the season, Steelman has rushed for 559 yards and nine touchdowns. Pat Mealy didn't find a lot of running room, rushing for 39 yards, as the Falcons took away the perimeter with their cover three and talented cornerbacks. Army center Zac Peterson returned against Air Force and did a solid job as the offensive line created running room for the B backs Kent State's 3-4 defense leads the nation in rushing defense. They are allowing only 69 rushing yards a game. One of Kent State's best players is 2009 first team All-MAC middle linebacker Corbani Mixon who has posted 67 tackles but left the last game against Temple with a shoulder injury. Undersized nose tackle Quinton Rainey plays with great leverage and quickness. Eight of his 20 tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. Senior will linebacker Dorian Wood leads the team with 68 tackles and 14 tackles for losses. The Golden Flashes defense held Temple, a team that rushed for 256 yards against Army, to just 97 rushing yards on 46 carries in their loss last weekend. Army's passing offense  
Army passing offense
Kent State passing defense
Trent Steelman on the season has completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 649 yards with 5 touchdowns. Steelman threw his first interception of the season against Air Force when he made a terrible decision to force a throw into coverage near the end of the first half. Steelman was lucky at least two other passes weren't picked. Just before the end of the first half Steelman badly missed Austin Barr who was open at the 50-yard line. Austin Barr caught a nine yard touchdown when Steelman overthrew an open George Jordan and Barr caught the deflected pass. Army has missed too many potential big plays in the passing game the past few weeks as Steelman has misfired and failed to give open receivers the chance to make plays on the ball. The offensive line's pass blocking, for an option team, has been very good. Kent State's secondary is led by free safety Brian Lainhart. Lainhart is a terrific player, has great range, is a good tackler with 16 career interceptions. Cornerback Norman Wolfe is having a great year. Wolfe has made 53 tackles this year and has picked off five passes. Kent State ranks 11th in the country in sacks. They generate tremendous pressure on the quarterback. Defensive tackle Roosevelt Nixs splits time yet leads the team with 8 1/2 sacks. Defensive end Monte Simmons and linebacker Cobrani Mixon get into the backfield on a regular basis  
Kent State rushing offense
Army rushing defense
Kent State runs the pistol offensive set with three wide receivers and a single back. The running back is Jacquise Terry. Terry has run for 498 yards and six touchdowns but averages only 3.6 yards a carry. Golden Flashes struggle at times on offense. They average only 95 rushing yards a game and are ranked just 113th in the nation. While the Black Knights held Air Force below their season average, Air Force ran for 277 yards and 5.2 yards a carry. Army ranks 35th in the country in rush defense allowing 135 yards a game. Stephen Anderson played well against the Falcons and had nine tackles. He had a tremendous highlight reel play when he leaped over the line to stuff the quarterback on a fourth down play last weekend. Special teams star Zach Watts has replaced Chad Littlejohn at whip linebacker.  
Kent State passing offense
Army passing defense
The Golden Flashes are under .500 despite their dominant defense because their pistol attack isn't very explosive. Kent State averages only 21.8 points a game and is ranked 108th in the nation in total offense. They average over 203 passing yards a game and have allowed 18 sacks. Quarterback Spencer Keith is a drop back pocket passer who's completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 1,773 yards and eight touchdowns against eight interceptions. After struggling with turnovers earlier in the year Keith has thrown just one interception in the last five games. Keith has a thumb injury but is expected to play. Wide receiver Sam Kirkland leads Kent State with 43 receptions for 493 yards and one touchdown. Fellow wide receiver Tyshon Goode has 42 catches for 451 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Jacquise Terry has caught two touchdowns passes. The Kent State receivers have been inconsistent and dropped seven passes against Temple. Army will look for its double eagle flex to create pressure against the stationary Keith. Josh McNary's hamstring forced him to leave the game against the Falcons as he was shutout on the stat sheet. McNary has posted 9 1/2 sacks and is eighth in the nation in that category but his health is a concern with Army in the midst of its most demanding portion of the schedule. He is questionable for Saturday's game. SAM safety Donnie Dixon had one of his best games with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a huge hit on Jefferson that knocked him out of the game for a while in the first half. Dixon also nearly forced an interception on a blitz. Donovan Travis, three tackles, was beaten by Warzeka on a 53-yard touchdown pass when he broke the wrong way then fell down. Travis hurt his ankle later in game but is expected to play this Saturday's game  
Special Teams
Kent State has been very good on special teams under Doug Martin. They blocked two punts against Temple last weekend and recovered a punt in the end zone for a touchdown. Field goal kicker Freddy Cortez has hit 10 of 15 attempts with a long field goal of 45 yards. Punter Matt Rinehart averaged 43.4 yards a punt this year and has averaged over 48 yards in two straight games. Kent State has used a number of players to return punts but collectively they only average 5.5 yards a return. The Golden Flashes lost dangerous kickoff returner Anthony Bowman who has returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to a season ending injury. . Alex Carlton had his best game of the season against the Falcons hitting all three field goal attempts including two from over 40 yards. Carlton, after struggling early in year, has now hit seven field goal attempts in a row. Jonathan Bulls had a tremendous game averaging 42.2 yards per punt and placed all four punts inside the 20 with no return yards allowed against the Falcons. Josh Jackson has averaged 7.5 yards on his 17 punt returns this year. Matt Campbell had a nice touchdown saving tackle on a 41-yard Warzeka kickoff return. Army has done a solid job on kickoff returns this season averaging only 19.9 yards per return.  
Doug Martin has built a very good defensive team and has upgraded his special teams. His offense still leaves a lot to be desired. Rich Ellerson had the Black Knight ready to play last week but was forced to settle for too many field goals. I was disappointed Ellerson chose to take the field goal rather than going for it on fourth-and-1 on the opening drive. Payam Saadat switched to a different flex look at times with two down linemen and with no nose tackle but it didn't work.  
Army is playing for a potential bowl berth with two difficult games upcoming. Army's lack of depth is apparent with injuries forcing less talented backups in starting spots the past three games. Kent State will probably be without its best defender and leader in first team All-MAC middle linebacker Corbani Mixon. Kent State head coach Doug Martin is likely playing for his job.  

PREDICTION: Army, 23-17. This game will probably be decided if the proverbial irresistible force that is the Army running game can beat the immovable object that is Kent State's rushing defense. If Army's best slot backs are banged up, can't run effectively and Steelman is forced to pass it will be in trouble against the Golden Flash pass rush. Even without McNary the double eagle flex defense should be able to give Kent State's limited offense trouble.

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