Key Matchups: Army versus Rice

The sixth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 126, 2-3) and the Conference USA West Rice Owls (Sagarin 91, 2-3.) Rice leads the all-time series 2-1-1, with the last victory coming in Houston in 2008, 38-31.

Background
The sixth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 126, 2-3) and the Conference USA West Rice Owls (Sagarin 91, 2-3.) Rice leads the all-time series 2-1-1, with the last victory coming in Houston in 2008, 38-31. Both teams look to even their records at the half-way mark of the season. The winner will be on the track to bowl eligibility and the loser will nearly be backed into a losing season.

Last Week

In Houston, Rice overcame three turnovers and a half time deficit to beat the Hawaii Warriors 28-14. Rice scored once on eight first half drives, but settled down in the fourth quarter to win. Rice gained 391 total yards. Junior Quarterback Driphus Jackson was 10 for 23 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The Owl rushing attack was led by Junior Darik Dillard, who ran for 141 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. Jackson’s favorite target was Senior Jordan Taylor, who caught five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

The Rice defense had a good game. They limited the Warriors to 261 total yards. Hawaii had 45 rushing attempts that only yielded 144 yards. The two drives that resulted in Hawaii touchdowns were 68 and 36 yards. The Rice defense forced an interception and a fumble.

At Michie, it was a game of fumbles, mistakes, an Army lead and a late charge by the Cardinals. In the end, Army prevailed 33-24. Army gained 473 yards in total offense, with 425 coming on the ground. Senior Larry Dixon led the way with 188 yards on 28 carries. Senior Quarterback Angel Santiago gained 89 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Senior Terry Baggett gained 64 yards on 5 rushes and Senior A.J. Schurr had two touchdown runs. Santiago was 2 for 3 passing for 48 yards with 37 coming on a single throw to sophomore Edgar Allen Poe. While it was not a great pass, Poe was athletic enough to come back on the short pass and out leap the defender.

Schurr started the game, but a fumbled snap and a bad pitch later, and Santiago came trotting onto the field on the seventh drive. Behind Schurr, the offense scored on three of six drives and turned the ball over once. The offense is much more effective with Schurr as the quarterback, however there is a much greater chance of a turnover as he is more likely than Santiago to pitch and throw into congestion.

A pattern that we are seeing develop is that Dixon comes out of the gate strong. Usually after halftime adjustments, the defenses move up, put eight in the box and key on Dixon and Baggett. This has led to great rushing numbers by both Schurr and Santiago. Santiago has been the quarterback that has played in the second half of most of these games and he seems fairly predictable in his reads. Another pattern we are seeing is the decrease in energy level and effectiveness on both sides of the ball in the second half of these games. Perhaps it’s the result of opposing teams’ adjustments, or maybe it’s the lack of size and depth catching up to Army in the second half. Whatever the reason, the team has been outscored 116-61 in the second half, including a whopping 73-26 in the fourth quarter and overtime. It would be hard to imagine Army winning enough games to be bowl eligible this season if this trend continues much longer.

On the last drive, with Army up by three, Offensive Coordinator Brent Davis used Maples and Baggett on options off of fakes to Dixon. These were big gainers and really helped the drive. What we would really like to see is AJ Schurr throwing passes so that the defense can’t put eight defenders in the box; outside of that, we thought that this was incredible play calling and should happen long before the end of the fourth quarter.

The defense played well. They allowed 330 yards in total offense to the Cardinals. On most plays they were in the correct position and all gaps were covered; the big plays for Ball State happened on broken and missed tackles. For this Army Team to win four more times this season, this has to stop. Sophomore Linebacker Andrew King had ten tackles. Sophomore linebacker Jeremy Timpf had three tackles and a big interception to close out the game. Freshman John Voit got his first sack of the year and the fifth of the year for Army; it was a great play, but the team definitely needs to put more pressure on the quarterback.

Finally, Xavier Moss and Edgar Poe are big athletic receivers. They need to be used throughout the game, not once or twice a game on home-run balls. Throwing 10-12 passes a game will loosen up the defense and keep the linebackers out of the back field.

Who is favored?
The game is a pick’em.

What to look for?

The Rice defense gives up 433 total yards, 146 yards rushing and 33.6 points per game. Their opponents have included Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Old Dominion, Southern Mississippi and Hawaii. Army gives up 451 yards in total offense and 34.2 points a game.

The Rice offense gains 432 yards and scores 27.6 points per game. The Army offense gains 420 yards and scores 28.8 points per game. Rice has fumbled five times and three times resulted in turnovers and they have thrown three interceptions. Army has fumbled nine times, lost it six times and thrown one interception.

Rice is 1-3 on the road, Army is 2-0 at home.

This is a fantastic match up as these teams are equal in nearly every way. If Army is able to move the ball and limit turnovers, we like their chances. If Army fumbles, misses tackles, and messes up their field goal attempts, they will come up short.

Army will need to key on Running Back Dillard and make Quarterback Jackson beat them. The Army defense must keep the game in front of them and finish their tackles. We would like to see the offense come out throwing and somehow get the ball to Baggett and Maples more often.

It has been rare in the last 5 years or so that Army has followed up a good performance with another good performance. We would not be terribly surprised if, after last week’s good effort, our Cadets follow it up by laying an egg. But we are Army fans and we are hoping that the good Black Knights team shows up again this week.

Final Score – Army 31 – Rice 28 (predictions in 2014, 2-3)

Game will be shown on CBS College Sports @ 12:00 EST.

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