Key Matchups: Army vs. Rutgers

The ninth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 104, 3-6) and the Big East Scarlet Knights (Sagarin 54, 6-3.) The Scarlet Knights lead the all-time series 19-18 and have won 7 in a row, dating back to 1998. Last year was a thriller, where Army lead by 14 going into the 4th quarter only to lose 23-20 in overtime.

Background

Through the years, this has been a fun game and is usually a barometer for Army teams.  Army will try to salvage a .500 season with a win over Rutgers.  The bowl eligible Scarlet Knights look to gain some momentum as they finish out their regular season and make a run for the Big East Championship.

 

Last Week

In Colorado Springs – Army melted…again, losing the football, losing composure and losing the game to Air Force 24-14.

The Black Knights played an amazing first half of football.  They completely dominated the Falcons, outgaining them by 230 yards.  Army led 14-0 at the half, but it could have very easily been 28-0.  Midway through the 2nd quarter, Army went for it on 4th and inches.  Max Jenkins appeared to have scored both in real time and in replay, but it was never conclusive and the Falcons held.  On Army's next drive Scott Williams ran for 17 yards and fumbled the ball on the half yard line and the ball bounded out of the end-zone for an Air Force touchback.  The Knights left the field dejected and Air Force felt fortunate that they were still in the game.   

 

The second half was a complete debacle for Army.  Four turn-overs were highlighted by a fake punt after Air Force had tied the game.  JR WR Justin Allen had at least 30 yards of open running room, but failed to catch the pitch and Army turned the ball over on their own 14.

 

The Army Defense played their best game of the year, but could do little more when the ball was turned over deep in their territory. 

 

The second half was very disappointing, but Army was not physically dominated, they were beaten mentally.  The Cadets have played 19 freshmen this year, which leads any FBS school.  Things are looking better if these players can become stronger physically and mentally.

 

In Piscataway, Rutgers overcame a 10 point half time deficit, highlighted by a Lindsey Lamar 67 yard kick-off return for a touch-down to beat South Florida in overtime, 20-17.

 

Rutgers only gained total 228 yards and -7 rushing, but tough defense and two drives were enough.  South Florida ran for 221 yards on 52 carries.    They ran 86 plays in 31 minutes, for 381 total yards.

 

What to look for?

Army is 0-5 away from Michie Stadium this year. The Army team that plays at Michie has been starkly different from the one that has travelled. Add to that the spotlight of playing on the grand stage of Yankee Stadium, and you can be certain that this team's ability to perform under intense pressure will be seriously tested.

 

The first question is will Army's defense match up with the Rutgers offensive line?  This year, the Scarlet Knights are averaging a mere 2.44 yards per rushing attempt and have yet to collectively gain over 800 yards on the season.  Rutgers does most of their work through the air; Freshman Gary Nova has played in the last 8 games, but Sophomore Chas Dodd is expected to get the start.  He is 80 for 144 for 879 yards and has a passer rating of 117.  Army has done well against pass-happy teams when they have been able to bring pressure on the opposing QB.  But when opposing teams have committed to running between the tackles against the puny Army defensive front, it has been a disaster.

 

Will Army be able to move the ball on Rutgers?  Opponents have averaged 3.93 yards per rush and Army is 1st in the nation in rushing, averaging 366 yards per game and 5.72 yards per attempt. Coach Ellerson says QB Trent Steelman is "fighting through that last 10 to 15%" to recover from his high ankle sprain and be ready for this game. However, even if Steelman is able to play, RE says he is determined to play 3rd stringer Angel Santiago, believing he needs to utilize the youngster's legs to have a chance of moving the ball against the Rutgers defense on Saturday.

 

Can Army regroup after such a disappointing loss at Colorado Springs?  Will Rutgers overlook a 3 win, out of conference team in anticipation of their upcoming game against Cincinnati?  Will Army hold on to the ball, or will we see the usual three or four fumble performance from the offense?

 

This will also be the first meeting between these two teams since the tragic accident in which Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand was paralyzed tackling Army RB Malcolm Brown in last year's game at the Meadowlands. There is certain to be some emotional moments during the day as both teams reflect on what happened. It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on either team during the course of the contest.

 

Our guess is that the Army home team will show up and this game will be closer than most think. But we doubt that Army will play the kind of flawless, penalty-free, fumble-free game they would need to play in order to win this game on this stage.

 

 

Who is favored?

Rutgers is favored by 7.5 points

 

Final Score – Rutgers 24 – Army 21 (predictions 2011, 4-5)

Game will be shown on ESPN3, 3:30PM EST.


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