Key matchups: Army vs. Navy

The 12th game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 150, 3-8) and the arch-rival Navy Midshipmen (Sagarin 62, 7-4) One of the greatest rivalries in college sports has not been much of a game the past decade as Navy has beaten Army 11 years in a row and 14 of the past 16. Navy looks to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy with a win and will then play in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Background
The 12th game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 150, 3-8) and the arch-rival Navy Midshipmen (Sagarin 62, 7-4) One of the greatest rivalries in college sports has not been much of a game the past decade as Navy has beaten Army 11 years in a row and 14 of the past 16. Navy looks to win the Commander in Chief's Trophy with a win and will play in the Armed Forces Bowl. Army has lost four games in a row and this could be a make it or break it game for the current coaching staff.

Last Game
In Hawaii – the winless Warriors gained 608 yards, 285 of them on the ground as Hawaii outscored Army to win their first game of the season 49-42.

We were expecting the Hawaii offense to have a big day, but certainly not this big. The Rainbows had two running backs gain over 100 yards. Joey Iosefa gained 154 yards on 28 carries, mostly by taking on Army tackers head-on and sending them flying like ragdolls upon contact. Sean Schroeder wrapped up his collegiate career on a high note passing for 322 yards and completing 23/33 passes for three touchdowns and an interception. A Chris Carnegie interception in the end zone was one of the few bright spots for the Army defense, which by in large was so totally ineffective that they may as well not have even bothered taking the field. As the Rainbows rolled to a 28-7 halftime lead, the home fans could be heard openly laughing at how easily they sprinted up and down the field on the Army defense.

The Army offense was totally overwhelmed by the Warrior defense in first half. Coach Ellerson said he was surprised by the defensive scheme adopted by Hawaii, expecting them to take the same approach that they used against Navy. Instead they penetrated in swarms, which produced multiple defenders in the Army backfield on nearly every play. The Warriors had three sacks and six tackles for loss in the first half. Santiago was totally overwhelmed as he was 3/10 for 30 yards. He also had 23 yards on 13 carries. He did lead one successful 13-play, 80 yard drive for a touchdown.

For those Army fans who were able to stay awake for the second half, and for the two or three of us who ventured out to Honolulu to support the Black Knights, we were in for a treat. A.J. Schurr started the half and the offense looked completely different. He has a better arm than Santiago and makes faster decisions on the option and that mattered against the swarming defense. A recovered fumble, a recovered on-side kick and 2 quick rushing TD's by Schurr pulled the Cadets to within 7. Soon after another defensive stop the game was tied 28-28, and the fans of the 0-11 Warriors could be heard grumbling about the kind of undisciplined mistakes that Head Coach Norm Chow's team was making that had hurt them all season long. However, Hawaii rebounded and scored on their next two possessions and led the game 42-28. Army was able to draw to within a touchdown, but after a very costly fourth quarter fumble by the otherwise excellent Terry Baggett, the defense could not hold. The final score was 49-42. On the day, Schurr was 5/10 for 122 yards in the air and gained 47 yards on 15 carries and scored four touchdowns.

In San Jose - Keenan Reynolds scored seven rushing touchdowns to set an NCAA record, including the game winner in the third overtime, and Navy beat San Jose State 58-52.

San Jose was able to gain 600 yards in the game and still lose. David Fales was 42/56 for 440 yards and five touchdowns. He did throw an interception that ended the game in overtime.

San Jose came back last weekend to beat then unbeaten Fresno St. to become bowl eligible.

What to look for?
In the past 12 years, we have seen Army lose this game in every conceivable way. Whether it be fumbles, fumbles returned for touchdowns, blocked punts – Army has created different ways to lose this football game every year. Last year victory seemed so close, but a Trent Steelman fumble in the closing minute left the cadets empty again. Not one time in this drought has Army been physically mismatched, but only in the last two years have the games been competitive. The vast majority of the time, Army has not been in Navy's "league".

The Ken Niumatalolo strategy for the Army/Navy game is to play conservatively and let Army make mistakes. It has worked for him each of the six years that he has coached. Navy has only committed eight turnovers this year, while Army has 14. Common opponents are Air Force, Western Kentucky and Hawaii. Navy is 2-1 and Army has found a way to lose all three in close games.

Army has two weeks to prepare for this game. The key is to stop Reynolds. He leads the Navy offense with 1,124 yards rushing, and has thrown for over 1,028 more. No other ball carrier for Navy has gained more than 380 yards this season. We are not sure how easy this will be.

Navy averages 419 yards on offense and gives up 420 yards on defense. Army averages 406 yards on offense and gives up 416. The difference is that Army makes numerous unforced errors under pressure while Navy knows how to win.

Coach Ellerson has announced that both Santiago and Schurr will play. Of course if Army comes out throwing the ball, there will be much more room for Baggett to run. Hopefully the Black Knights will get Larry Dixon and Trenton Turrentine back from injury on offense and Thomas Holloway on defense.

Army has underachieved in every way in 2013. There have been some great performances, but this team is far more talented than what they have shown against this very weak schedule. This game is an opportunity to put a positive spin on 2013.

Army will not be physically overmatched and they will be very motivated in this game. The Army defense will be flying to the ball and will contain the Navy offense. The game will most likely be won by a turnover or a trick play. To win, Army must win the turnover battle and stop Reynolds. But this game will be much closer than the point spread indicates and will come down to the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, we have come to realize that Coach Ellerson and his staff, with their track record away from Michie Stadium for being unprepared, unable to get off to good starts, unable to make in-game adjustments, and unable to get a handle on in-game decision-making and clock management, are worth a good seven to ten points against in any away contest. We have no doubt that a terrific effort will be utterly undermined and completely undone by the incompetence of the coaching staff when the result hangs in the balance.

All of West Point Nation will bid Coach Ellerson and his assistant's good bye and good riddance after what promises to be another gut-wrenching heart breaker this Saturday. Afterwards, let the national coaching search begin – we will keep our fingers crossed that Class of 1989 alumnus Mike Sullivan will consider walking away from the NFL's Tampa Bay Bucs and returning to West Point to become the head coach who finally turns the program around.

Who is favored?
Navy is favored by 12 points.

Final Score –Navy 35– Army 28
(Predictions this year 6-5)

Game will be shown on CBS @ 3:00 EST.

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