Army hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday. ArmySports.com's Jim
Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also
make a prediction on the game's final score.
The Army Black Knights (2-3) return home to the face the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-4). Army enters the game off a 48-27 loss against Boston College. Eastern Michigan lost to Buffalo 42-14 on the road last week. Last year Army allowed five touchdown passes by Eastern Michigan's quarterback Tyler Benz as the previously winless Eastern Michigan defeated Army 48-38 at Rynearson Stadium.
ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
EASTERN MICHIGAN PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Army's quarterback Angel Santiago was 2-of-3 for 87 passing yards before he left the Boston College game with a left ankle injury. Santiago first pass attempt was off a well-designed flea flicker pass. Dixon faked the fullback dive then pitched the ball back to Angel who hit a wide open Xavier Moss for a 75-yard touchdown pass. Santiago last pass was a key third down seven yard pass to Moss for a first down that set up Army's second touchdown. Santiago is questionable and isn't expected to practice till the middle of the weak. Backup A.J. Schurr is also injured so Kelvin White and Tevin Long will split snaps early in the week. Xavier Moss (14 rec., 228 yards, 16.3 avg., 1 TD) is developing into the impact receiver we discussed he could be during ArmySports.com's meet the incoming freshman series this summer.
Eastern Michigan has struggle in pass coverage. They are currently ranked 70th in the nation in pass defense. Opponent have completed over 63 percent of their passes and thrown five touchdowns. Strong safety Donald Coleman (88 tackles, in 2012) is a former transfer from North Carolina State and one of the Eagles best defenders. Defensive end Kalonji Kashama made 30 tackles with three sacks in 2012.
Kashama, a Canadian citizen, was selected as the 27th overall pick by Ottawa in the 2013 Canadian Football League (CFL) Draft. He has two sacks this year. Sophomore defensive end Pat O'Conner leads the team with three sacks. EMU has 12 sacks this season. The Eagles like to blitz on passing downs.
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
EASTERN MICHIGAN RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Black Knights are currently ranked fourth in the nation in rushing averaging over 325 rushing yards a game. Army ran for 413 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in last season's loss to EMU. Eastern Michigan's defense tried to limit Army's running backs on the perimeter and keep the game between the tackles. The biggest question this week for Army is if starting quarterback Angel Santiago (366 rushing yards, 4.1 avg., 4 TDs) will be healthy enough to play after leaving last week's game with an ankle injury. Leading rusher Terry Baggett (440 yards, 7.5 avg., 2 TDs) has fulfilled his promise as an impact running back. The Black Knights need him to stay healthy. Larry Dixon had an impressive career long 80-yard touchdown run against Boston College.
Eastern Michigan is currently ranked 108th in run defense. The Eagles are allowing over 212 rushing yards a game. The EMU defense has been hurt by big plays all season. During the first five games of the season, the Eagles have allowed 40 plays over 20 yards with 14 of them resulting in touchdowns. Opposing teams have recorded nine touchdowns over 50 yards against EMU this year. Free safety Mycal Swaim is the Eagles leading tackler with 34 and he's picked off a pass. It's always a bad sign when a team's leading tackler is its free safety. At middle linebacker Sean Kurtz is a former JC transfer who has made 29 tackles and picked off a pass in his first season as a starter. Eastern Michigan enters this game allowing 38 points per game.
EASTERN MICHIGAN PASSING OFFENSE
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EASTERN MICHIGAN
REMARKS: Junior quarterback Tyler Benz has completed 92-of-143 for 1,029 passing yards (64.3%) with five touchdowns against five interceptions this year. Benz threw a career-high 369 yards and five touchdowns in last year's game. The Black Knights could not cover tight end Garrett Hoskins all day. Hoskins had seven catches for 158 receiving yards and a touchdown. While Hoskins has moved on to the NFL, they replaced him with another good tight end in junior Tyreese Russell. Russell leads the team with 27 receptions for 285 yards and a touchdown. The wide receivers are sophomore Dustin Creel (18 for 231, 12.8 avg., 1 TD) and junior Demarius Reed (14 for 178, 12.7 avg., 1 TD). Both are solid possession receivers. Bronson Hill is a dangerous threat out of the backfield. Last year Hill caught a 41-yard touchdown pass against the Black Knights. The Eagles rebuilt offensive line has struggled protecting Benz as they are allowing 3.4 sacks per game.
The Black Knights pass defense is allowing over 216 passing yard a game. They are ranked 104th in the nation in defensive passing efficiency. The defensive secondary had a rough game last week as Boston College completed 11-of-13 for 208 passing yards and a touchdown. Having plebe cornerback Josh Jenkins (2 INTs) back for the entire game should help. The Black Knights aren't creating enough pressure up front. They should be able to use their twist and stunts against the Eagles struggling offensive line to create some negative plays. SAM safety Shaquille Tolbert has struggled in coverage this year and may need help against Russell. The Eagles killed Army last year on short crossing patterns to the tight end.
EASTERN MICHIGAN RUSHING OFFENSE
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: EASTERN MICHIGAN
REMARKS: Ron English has tried to develop a power running attack at Eastern Michigan. They haven't been that successful as they are ranked 99th in the nation. Junior tailback Bronson Hill has 89 carries for 352 yards, a 4.2 average and two touchdowns this year. While the Eagles haven't had a ton of running success the last two years they did against Army in 2012. Bronson Hill ran for 185 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown in last year's game. Running back Darius Jackson (161 yards, 3.8 avg., 2 TDs) rotates in at halfback. Speedy junior Ryan Brumfield, who has legit 4.4 speed, is a change of pace back. He had a 75-yard touchdown run against Buffalo last game. The Eagles lost three offensive linemen since last year to graduation including their best interior linemen. They had good success running the ball against the Black Knights in 2010 and 2012.
Last week the Black Knights were once again run over by a Steve Addazio coached power running team. Boston College ran for 320 yards, 7.9 yards per carry and five touchdowns. Army's defensive line was dominated at the point of attack and could not disengage from blocks. Mike linebacker Julian Holloway made ten tackles and posted a sack but often failed to fill quickly and missed too many tackles. Army is ranked 88th in rushing defense. Senior whip linebacker Jarrett Mackey (24 tackles) has played well in recent weeks. Rover Thomas Holloway leads the team with 48 tackles but injured his ankle against Boston College and is listed as questionable. Justin Trimble (7 tackles) will fill in if Holloway can't play. With Geoff Bacon out, Thomas Hollaway hurting and Alex Meier leaving the academy the back seven of the Black Knights defense are missing some of their best tacklers.
REMARKS: Eastern Michigan's kicker Dylan Mulder has struggled this year hitting just 1-of-5 field goal attempts. He's also missed two extra points. New EMU punter Austin Barnes does a nice job getting hang time of his punts. Barnes is averaging 38.6 per punt with 15 fair catches. Tyler Allen is averaging 20.1 yards per kickoff return. Demarius Reed is the Eagles punt returner. Reed has averaged 6.6 yards on seven returns. Eastern Michigan has struggled covering kicks. They've allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Army kicker Dan Grochowski has made seven of eight field goal attempts this year. He now looks a lot like the kicker I saw at USMAPS in 2011 when he never seemed to miss. Punter Alex Tardieu has averaged 37.5 yards on 26 punts. Army ranks last in the FCS in kick returns averaging just 15.9 yards per kickoff return. Army had quick plebe quarterback Tevin Long back against Boston College to improve that average but he didn't get a chance to return a kick. The Black Knights have been asking sure handed Scott Williams to just fair catch punts. Army kick and punt coverage has been shaky the last few games. B.C. almost broke a few returns in the last game.
REMARKS: Eastern Michigan played its best game last season beating Army. Their big back power running game is the type that has given Army problems. Rich Ellerson has defeated Eastern Michigan two of the three times that Army has played them since he became head coach. The Black Knights will be looking for some payback after last year's embarrassing road loss at EMU. Army has played a lot better at Michie Stadium than on the road.
REMARKS: Head coach Ron English record at EMU is just (11-42). It looked like English, after a 6-6 campaign in 2011, had turned the Eagles program around. Since the end of 2011 the Eagles have reverted to their old form and struggled. They have won just three of their last 19 games. Of course one win was over Army last year. The Eagles are struggling in all phases of the game.
This is a key game for Rich Ellerson and his staff. The next three games may determine his future as the next three opponents are just (2-14) so far this year. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields seems to have the offense back on track but he needs Angel Santiago to be ready to play. Defensive coordinators Chris Smeland and Payam Sadaat charges had a rough game last week. The Black Knights haven't been great on defense but they had been fundamentally sound the weeks leading up to Boston College running over them. They need to get this defensive unit back on track.
PREDICTION: Army, 38-24. Army will run the ball on Eastern Michigan. Defensive coordinators Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland need their defense to be more consistent in maintaining their gap responsibilities and in limiting running back Bronson Hill. I believe this is a must win game for Rich Ellerson and his staff.