Academy Preview: Army's Scripted Challenge

Sports aren't scripted, but football plays sometimes are. The Army Black Knights need to read offensive formations and recognize what Bobby Petrino is attempting to do. "Following the script" is Army's biggest key to victory this Saturday.


FOLLOW THE SCRIPT… AND SNUFF IT OUT: ARMY'S CHALLENGE

The Army Black Knights will play a very winnable game this weekend as they try to forge a 6-6 (non-losing) season. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have been all over the map this year. They are capable of brilliance (as when they beat Louisiana-Monroe, 31-10), and they are capable of collapsing, as they showed when they committed five turnovers in a span of six plays during a loss to Tennessee. One can see this game acquiring any of several different trajectories. This game could be a blowout on either side, or it could be a white-knuckler, or anything in between.

What will make the difference for Army? Not just defense, but pass defense; not just defense, but first-quarter defense.

Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino is one of the best play-callers in the United States. Petrino's scripted plays in the first quarter often give his offense its best chance to succeed. If Army can truly follow the script written by Petrino – well enough to stop it cold – the Black Knights can get a lead in the first quarter. They can then lean on WKU's suspect run defense and dictate the terms on which this game is played. An authoritative first quarter will enable Army to play the following three quarters the way it wants to. Obviously, a quick start for WKU will feed the Hilltoppers' sense of confidence while giving Petrino the assurance that he can attack the Black Knights' defense at its weakest points.

Navy and Air Force face "easy to say, hard to do" situations this week. It's clear that Navy has a favorable matchup on its hands against Hawaii. Navy – if its offense can execute the way it did against Notre Dame – should not merely defeat, but HAMMER, Hawaii. The Midshipmen should, in fact, be able to outclass each of their remaining opponents if they can sustain the level of offensive mastery they displayed in South Bend. It's all easy to say, but it's harder to do. A firm focus on the task at hand will serve Navy well against the Warriors from the islands.

For Air Force, the fullness of success against Army must carry over to a Friday night fight against New Mexico. Air Force delivered its best offensive game of the season against Army. The Falcons and New Mexico use similar styles of offense. Air Force needs to frame this game in simple terms, then: "OUR best offense is better than YOUR best offense." Defense has been the urgent need for Air Force for most of the season, but this game is better seen in terms of Air Force's ability to play its best on offense and dare New Mexico to keep up in a track meet.

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