HEAD TO HEAD: ARMY VS. WESTERN KENTUCKY

Army hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday at Michie Stadium. 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 return home to face the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for their final home game of the 2013 season. Last week the Black Knights lost to the Air Force Falcons 42-28 in Colorado Springs. Western Kentucky (5-4) entered the game following a 44-28 victory over Georgia State. This is the first meeting between the two schools.

ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
WESTERN KENTUCKY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: WESTERN KENTUCKY
REMARKS: Army's quarterback Angel Santiago has completed just 48.4 percent of his passes for 442 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Santiago threw the ball fairly well last week. Santiago completed 8-of-14 passes for 109 passing yards against Air Force. Wide receiver Xavier Moss leads the team with 26 receptions for 333 yards, a 12.8 average, and a touchdown. Chevaughn Lawrence (7 rec., 73 yards, 1 TD) returned to the starting lineup last week. The Black Knights offensive line allowed two sacks last week. They are ranked 105th in the nation in sack percentage.

The WKU's defensive backs comprise one of the better secondaries in the Sun Belt conference. The Hilltoppers have made nine interceptions and posted 18 sacks. The best player in the secondary is SAM safety Jonathan Dowling (68 tackles, 6 interceptions in 2012) who is a very physical playmaker. The former Florida transfer has made 52 tackles, with two interceptions, seven pass defensed and forced four fumbles in 2013. Cornerback Cam Thomas leads the Hilltoppers with three interceptions and ten pass defensed. Former cornerback Arius Wright has been moved to free safety where he has 39 tackles and an interception. Linebacker Xavius Boyd, who has 6 1/2 sacks this year, can really fly off the edge. Boyd provides most of the pass rush pressure for Western Kentucky.

ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
WESTERN KENTUCKY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: ARMY
REMARKS: The Black Knights are leading the nation in rushing. They are averaging over 336.6 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Angel Santiago (495 rushing yards, 3.8 avg., 7 TDs) returned from an ankle injury and did a nice job running the offense and keeping the ball off the ground against Air Force. Running back Terry Baggett ran for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. It was the fourth time this year Baggett has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. Fullback Larry Dixon (672 yards, 6.6 avg., six TDs) ran for 82 yards against the Falcons.

The Hilltoppers 4-3 defense is ranked 60th in the nation against the run. They are allowing over 159 rushing yards per game. Senior linebacker Xavius Boyd, a three year starter, leads the Western Kentucky defense with 83 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and 6 1/2 sacks. Senior middle linebacker Andrew Jackson (122 tackles, 17.5 for loss in 2012) is a very athletic and the emotional leader of this defense. Jackson has 59 tackles and is an NFL prospect. He is back from a team imposed suspension. Senior defensive end Bar'ee Boyd is very quick off the snap. Boyd has 29 tackles with seven tackles for a loss and 3 1/2 sacks. The WKU defense has allowed an average of 4.5 rushing yards per carry and 19 rushing touchdowns. WKU held Navy's triple option attack to just 107 rushing yards, a 3.2 average and a touchdown earlier in the year. They knocked Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds out of the game.

WESTERN KENTUCKY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Western Kentucky played musical chairs early in season with four quarterbacks seeing time. Junior Brandon Doughty was the starter at the beginning of the year but a plethora of interceptions cost him the job. He regained his starting spot and his play improved. Doughtry has completed 189-of-281 passes (67.3%) for 2,251 yards and nine touchdowns with 13 interceptions. He's listed as questionable because of an injury last week. If he can't play then Nelson Fishback who completed three of five passes for 35 yards for a touchdown last week will start. Junior wide receiver Willie Mcneal (43 receptions for 566 yards in 2012) is the team's leading receiver. This year McNeal has 29 catches for 404 yards and a touchdown. Running back Antonio Andrews has 29 catches for 368 yards. Freshman deep threat Nicholas Norris has 24 catches for 329 yards and a team leading three touchdowns. Tight end Mitchell Henry caught 23 passes for 268 receptions and two touchdowns.

The Black Knights pass defense is ranked 21st in the nation. Army is allowing over 204 passing yards a game. While Army's pass defense numbers actually improved after last game, it's not because they played well last week. They allowed AF's Nate Romine to complete seven of his eight passes for 111 passing yards. Cornerback Josh Jenkins (24 tackles, 2 INT, 6 PD) had his second rough game in a row. Fellow cornerback Chris Carnegie (30 tackles) drew two interference penalties that gave the Falcons first downs. SAM safety Hayden Pierce (33 tackles, 2 PD) replaced Shaquille Tolbert who left the game with an injury.

WESTERN KENTUCKY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: WESTERN KENTUCKY
REMARKS: Senior running back Antonio Andrews leads the nation in rushing. Andrews has rushed for 1,290 yards, averaged 6.4 yards a carry and scored 11 touchdowns this season. Last year Antonio led WKU with 1,728 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Interestingly, Army fans could have possibly seen him in a Black Knights uniform. Andrew's father served in the Army and he was scheduled to visit West Point during the 2010 recruiting season. He was recruited at Army as an option quarterback. A late offer from Air Force and a high pressure recruiting visit to Colorado Springs resulted in Andrews spending a summer at Air Force Prep. He left and returned home to Kentucky. Andrews is a gifted runner with the ability to slide laterally till he finds a hole and has the burst to exploit it. Fullback Kadeem Jones is used almost exclusively as a blocker. Leon Allen (6-0, 235) is a big back who gives Andrews a breather. Allen's rushed for 299 yards, a 5.1 average and four touchdowns. Quarterback Brandon Doughty is a pure pocket passer who doesn't pose a rushing threat. The Western Kentucky offensive line averages 303 pounds across its front.

Army dropped to 98th in the country against the run after last week's Air Force meltdown. The Black Knights allowed 343 rushing yards, 7.5 yards per carry and six rushing touchdowns against the Falcons. Defensive end Bobby Kough (23 tackles, 6 TFL) and free safety Geoffrey Bacon (40 tackles) returned to the lineup last game. Bacon looked very rusty after missing a month. He took poor angles and missed tackles against Air Force. Army's linebackers had very poor game against the Falcons. Army's second leading tackler Mike linebacker Julian Holloway (42 tackles, 4 ½ TFL) will miss the rest of the season. He suffered a broken leg when Rover Justin Trimble slammed into him after missing a tackle. This is a bad match-up for Army against the Hilltoppers. The Black Knight's defense is a poor tackling unit team that is facing the best runner in the country.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: WESTERN KENTUCKY
REMARKS: WKU sophomore kicker Garrett Schwettman has hit 12-of-14 field goal attempts. His career long is 44 yards. He is nearly automatic inside the forty yard line but doesn't have a very strong leg. Punter Hendrix Brakefield has been injured. His replacement Joseph Occhipinti has averaged 32.8 per punt. Antonio Andrews does everything but sell popcorn for WKU. He returns both punts and kickoffs and last year had 767 kick return yards and 234 punt return yards. His 3,161 all-purpose yards were the second-highest total ever behind 1988 Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders. Andrews and Sanders are the only two players in NCAA history to eclipse 3,000 all-purpose yards in a single season. Andrews is averaging 20.7 yards on his kickoff returns and 6.9 per punt return. WKU has done a solid job on kick coverage.

Army kicker Dan Grochowski missed both of his attempts last week. On the season he's hit seven-of -ten field goal attempts this year. Punter Alex Tardieu is averaging 37.8 yards on 37 punts. Army ranks last in the FCS in kick returns averaging just 14.8 yards per kickoff return. The punt return game is worse. Scott Williams is averaging just a 1.9 average per punt return. While neither possesses any breakaway speed the Army return teams do a terrible job of blocking. Both returners are often swarmed under by a wave of tacklers. Army's kick and punt coverage has been inconsistent all season.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: ARMY
REMARKS: Bobby Petrino will have his team ready to play. The Hilltoppers are just one win away from bowl eligibility for the third straight season. Army usually plays better at Michie Stadium. They have rebounded following bad losses in the past with a big effort at home. This is Senior Day and the last home game of the year. Ellerson and his staff are now officially on the hot seat if they weren't before last week's loss to Air Force. They are probably coaching for their jobs the last three games this season.

COACHING
EDGE: WESTERN KENTUCKY
REMARKS: Bobby Petrino was named WKU's new head coach after losing his job following being relieved of duties at Arkansas. Petrino lacks much integrity but he's had great success as a head college football coach at previous stops Louisville and Arkansas. Petrino's career record is a stellar 80-30. In his eight seasons as a collegiate head coach, Petrino led his teams to a bowl games in seven of the eight years, including four 10-win seasons, leading both the Cardinals and the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl games in school history. Petrino guided Arkansas and Louisville to top 10 finishes nationally three different times.

Rich Ellerson and his staff had a miserable game last week. Initially it looked like they would dominate the Falcons early only to once again find themselves out-coached and out-schemed after halftime. Ian Shields offense isn't explosive but it's consistent. Defensive coordinators Chris Smeland and Payam Sadaat's unit will have their hands full this week facing the best runner in the nation. It looks like a mismatch. Luke Thompson's kick coverage and return teams have been a disaster.

PREDICTION: Western Kentucky, 38-24. WKU shutdown Navy's option game in a 19-7 victory earlier this fall. While they did knock Reynolds out of the game the Mids were struggling before he left. Army will need to score points to win but I think they will not be able to consistently move the ball against a physical hard hitting Hilltopper defense. Army has twice given up 263 rushing yards to a running back in a game this year. This week they are playing against Antonio Andrews the best running back in the nation. I do not believe the Army defense can stop Andrews based on what I've seen from Army's run defense the past month.

ArmySports.com Top Stories