Head-to-head: Army vs. Tulane

Army (1-3) returns home to Michie Stadium to face the Tulane Green Wave, hoping to get back on track. The Black Knights were dominated last Saturday on the road Ball State, 48-21. Tulane (2-2) continued its inconsistent season last Saturday when it was blown out 48-27 by Duke on the road. This Saturday's game is the 19th all-time meeting between Tulane and Army.

Tulane leads the overall series, 9-8-1. The last two games at West Point between the teams have been decided by three points or less.

Army rushing offense
Tulane rushing defense
The Black Knights enter this game ranked third in the nation in rushing, averaging over 372 yards a game. Trent Steelman (383 yards, 5.0 avg., 7 TDs) has made some poor reads and pitch decisions this season but his running has been outstanding. Fullback Jared Hassin had a terrific game against Ball State rushing 17 times for 111 yards. Last year against Tulane Hassin rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore A-back Raymond Maples (282, 5.9 avg. 2 TDs) for the second consecutive game set a personal single game rushing high. Malcolm Brown (268 yards, 8.9 avg. 1 TD) has played well despite being hampered by injuries since the summer. The run blocking by the offensive line and on the perimeter has been excellent this season. Right guard Joe Bailey was lost for the season last week. Matt Villanti will play in his place. If he struggles Robert Kava would move over from tackle.

Tulane is currently ranked 45th in the nation in rush defense. Against Duke they struggled allowing 151 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Duke has been the ACC's worst rushing team each of the past two seasons. Last year Tulane allowed 37 points per game. Up front their best player is senior Dezman Moses (51 tackles, 6 sacks), who was named Second Team All-Conference USA last year. Moses has made 18 tackles so far this year. At middle linebacker junior Trent Mackey (124 tackles in 2010) earned First Team All-Conference USA honors last year. Mackey is ranked 7th in the nation this year with 48 tackles. Linebacker Darryl Farley (51 tackles, 2.5 sacks) is a solid player.  
Army passing offense
Tulane passing defense
Army's passing game continues to regress as the Black Knight quarterbacks completed no passes in four attempts against the Cardinals. Steelman threw an interception and the offensive line allowed a sack. Trent Steelman has completed only 8-of -25 passes (32%) for 135 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions this season. His interception against Ball State set up an easy touchdown that essentially ended any Army comeback hopes. Sophomore Jared McFarlin (6 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD) was a non-factor on Saturday but has impressed at times. Both sophomore wide receiver starters, McFarlin and Anthony Stevens (one catch, 24 yards) are guilty of having dropped too many passes similar to last year's slower starting duo of Brooks and Barr.

The Green Wave have struggle in pass coverage. They are currently ranked 93rd in the nation in pass defense. Unlike Army's secondary, which has also struggled, Tulane's defensive backs have produced turnovers and turned them into points. Cornerback Ryan Travis (24 tackles, 2 INTs) last week returned a 23-yard interception for a touchdown. It was Tulane's third interception return for a defensive touchdown the past two games. Last year Travis made 67 tackles. Junior Shakiel Smith (90 tackles, 3 INTs in 2010) after playing strong safety the first four games is being moved back to free safety. This season he has 19 tackles and three passes defended. The Green Wave defense has produced 10 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Tulane currently ranks second among Conference USA schools and 32nd nationally in sacks. Their defensive ends junior Austen Jacks and senior defensive end Dezman Moses both have recorded two sacks each. Look for former prized Army defensive line recruit sophomore Julius Warmsley at backup defensive tackle for Tulane. Warmsley (6-2, 281 pounds) played for USMAPS in 2009 but decided to go home and sign with Tulane rather than accept his offer to West Point. Warmsley had three sacks in the opener which is the third-best single game effort in college football this season.  
Tulane rushing offense
Army rushing defense
Tulane has chosen to use a tailback by committee approach this season. Tulane's leading rusher is sophomore Orleans Darkwa who leads the Green Wave with 56 attempts for 161 yards and three scores. As a high school senior Darkwa was heavily recruited and offered by the Army staff. Last season Darkwa (920 yards, 11 TD) was named First Team All-Conference USA as a true freshman. Senior Albert Williams (158, 1 TD) sees most of his playing time behind Darkwa. In an effort to upgrade the offensive line play Harris Howard, Tulane's best lineman, moved from left guard to left tackle recently.

The Black Knights allowed 162 yards and three rushing touchdowns against Ball State. Army had trouble with Ball State's zone option running attack and was dominated at the line of scrimmage. Rover Steve Erzinger led the team with 17 tackles but had a costly horse collar penalty that helped set up a touchdown. A.J. Mackey made six tackles including 1 1/2 for loses but the truth is Army was pushed around physically up front. At both defensive end positions the Watts brothers were unable to get off blocks and had very quiet games.  
Tulane passing offense
Army passing defense
The Green Wave's junior quarterback Ryan Griffin (906 passing yards, 57.6% 7 TD, 2 INT ) has been very good in Tulane's two wins (averaged 274 passing yards in the wins, completed 72% of his passes with six touchdowns, 0 int.) and has struggled in the two losses (averaged 179 passing yards a game, completed 47% with one touchdown and two interceptions). Griffin has started since his freshman year and has 30 career touchdowns and has thrown for 4,659 yards in his career. Ryan Griffin was named the Conference USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week two weeks ago after throwing for 281 yards and three touchdowns in the 49-10 victory at UAB. Griffin completed his first 11 passes for 164 yards and finished the game 22-of-26 for 281 yards.

Griffin's favorite target last year was junior Ryan Grant (33 catches, 510 yards, 4 TDs in 2010) who has been bothered by groin injury and is questionable for Army. Wide receiver Joe Kemp has caught a team leading 17 catches for 187 yards and one touchdown. Griffin has limited mobility. Tulane's offensive line has struggled to protect him at times this year.

The Black Knights pass defense was lit up last week by Ball State. Army is ranked 79th in the nation in pass defense allowing 235 yards a game. It is one of the worse pass defenses in the nation in defensive passing efficiency as they are ranked at 116th in the nation. After the secondary played solidly against San Diego State and Northwestern, Army suffered a defensive meltdown similar to opening day last weekend. Ball State's head coach Pete Lembo broke down Army's defense scheme and used max protection to shut down the Black Knights pass rush pressure. Army had no sacks and generated only one quarterback hurry (AJ Mackey). This allowed Ball State's quarterback Keith Wenning plenty of time to pick apart Army's secondary. Army used three field cornerbacks last week and all were awful. Whoever plays, Army needs to generate pressure this week against a stationary quarterback with an offensive line that has struggled to protect him.  
Special Teams
Tulane has a terrific punter in sophomore Jonathan Ginsburgh who has punted 21 times for 931 yards and has an average of 44.3 for the year. He has placed three punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, six have been fair-caught. Ginsburgh's average ranks 16th nationally. Placekicker Cairo Santo hit a career long 49-yard field goal at Duke last week. Santo has hit 4-of-6 field goal attempts this year Freshman Robert Kelley is averaging a Conference USA best 160 all-purpose yards per game, which places him 21st in the country, and is averaging 22.6 yards per kickoff return. Tulane has struggled on its coverage teams and gave up a Nick Adams' 92-yard kickoff return against UAB. Tulane's punt returner Derrick Strozier has average 15.5 yards on four returns. He had a career-long 44-yard return against Southeastern Louisiana.

The Army field goal unit had another disaster against Ball State with a low snap and Alex Carlton missed a 32-yard field goal attempt. Carlton has missed all three of his field goal attempts this year. Punter Chris Boldt has averaged 38.1 yards per punt since being named punter. Last Saturday Eric Osteen had three touchbacks on his kickoffs but had one fly out of bounds when the staff asked him to directional kick. He's done an excellent job this year driving the ball. Kick returner Scotty Williams has averaged 21.3 yards on kickoff returns since being promoted from the JV. Punt returner Josh Jackson has averaged 5.8 yards per punt return. Army's coverage teams have been superior to Tulane the last two years making this an even matchup.  
Rich Ellerson and the staff need to get this young team back on track after last week's defensive meltdown. Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland must create pressure to help his overmatched cornerbacks. If allowed to get into a rhythm Griffin can beat Army with his arm. Last year Army's staff out coached Tulane in a 41-23 victory.

Former UCLA coach Bob Toledo has a career record of 15-37 at Tulane. His team has been inconsistent this year but has more speed offensively than the team Army played last season. Toledo is known for running creative fakes and option passes.  
Army season is on the brink. If they lose this game any slim hopes of a winning season are likely dashed. Some of the former 2009 prep players on the roster might want to show former teammate Julius Warmsley whose team is better. Warmsley was widely reported to have talked some smack as he was leaving the prep school.  

PREDICTION: Army, 35-31. Army will run the ball on Tulane. This game depends on defensive coordinators Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland getting their flex front going and creating pressure on Tulane's immobile quarterback like Griffin . Tulane's offensive line has struggled at times this year. If they fail to create pressure Griffin can pick the Army secondary apart with time. Tulane has averaged 48 points in their two wins. Both teams will score. Army needs to control the clock to limit possessions and has to score touchdowns in the red zone.

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