Army meets Fordham on Saturday at Michi 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.
Black Knights return home to play the FCS Fordham
Rams. It has been a long time since the days of the Seven Blocks of Granite at Fordham but the FCS Rams have seen a football revival. Fordham started awarding football scholarships again in 2009. The Rams are a lot better team than the one Army crushed in the snow 55-0 in 2011. The Rams have gone 22-3 over the past two years with back-to-back NCAA FCS Championship appearances. Army enters the game off a 52-24 blowout road loss to Western Kentucky
. Last week Fordham knocked off Georgetown, 52-7, to complete an undefeated Patriot League season and clinch the outright league title. The Rams produced 496 total yards while scoring more than 50 points for the fifth time this season. The Black Knights have played 65 games against FCS schools and have posted a 52-12-1 record. However, they have dropped two of the last three games against FCS teams including this year's 49-43 overtime loss to Yale.
ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
FORDHAM PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Army's quarterback Angel Santiago
has completed 33-of-64 (51.6%) passes for 440 passing yards and a touchdown against an interception this year. Last week he completed 3-of-6 passes for 40 yards against WKU. Santiago has done a solid job on the short and intermediary routes this year but lacks the mustard on his throws on deep wheel, go and post routes. Wide receiver Edgar Poe
leads the team with nine receptions for 194 receiving yards, a 21.6 average with a touchdown. At the Z-receiver spot sophomore Xavier Moss
has disappeared from the offense with just six catches for 52 yards and two scores all year. He hasn't caught a pass the last three games. Last season Moss was the go-to receiver and led the team with 35 receptions for 463 receiving yards and a touchdown. Army's rebuilt offense line has struggled in pass protection and is now ranked dead last in sack percentage allowed.
The Fordham defense is ranked seventh in the FCS passing defense. The Rams are led by senior cornerback Ian Williams who was named to the preseason FCS defensive back watch list after picking off four passes last year. Williams has posted 53 tackles, two interceptions and has broke up 13 passes this fall. The other cornerback Jordan Chapman is very active in run support with 61 tackles. Chapman has an interception and seven passes defensed this year. Last year he led the Rams with five interceptions. Free safety ball hawk Levon Williams
has two interceptions and another has broken up seven passes. Levon has picked off seven passes over the last two seasons. Fordham can rush the passer and has posted 28 sacks this season. Senior Brett Biestek
(6-4, 270) had a breakout season as their bandit linebacker which is a hybrid defensive end/ outside linebacker position. Biestek has made 49 tackles, with 17 tackles for a loss, 11 1/2 sacks and an additional three quarterback hurries.
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
FORDHAM RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Black Knights are ranked fifth in the nation in rushing. They are averaging over 297 rushing yards per game. Army's running game has been back on track the last few weeks. They ran for 293 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns against Western Kentucky. B-back Larry Dixon
led the team with 131 rushing yards and a touchdown against WKU. It looks like Dixon's nagging groin injury has healed. He was in top form and the WKU's speedy secondary couldn't catch him on his 58-yard touchdown run. The senior captain now has 2,956 career rushing yards and should pass Army’s legendary the 1946 Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis, Mr. Outside, who had 2,959 career rushing yards. Dixon will be making both first and last career starts at Michie Stadium against Fordham. Quarterback Angel Santiago has 751 rushing yards, a 4.6 average and 10 touchdowns this year. Santiago had a season long 54-yard touchdown run last week. Army's offensive line has benefited from the return of Drew Hennessy
, who has been battling injuries since early this year, to play right tackle. This is the final home game for slotbacks Terry Baggett
(1,632 career yards, 11 TDs) and Raymond Maples
(2,855 career yards, 9 TDs). Maples ran for 159 yards on just 10 carries against Fordham in 2011.
The Fordam defense is ranked 43rd in the FCS against the run and is allowing 155 rushing yards per game and 19.7 points per game. Mike linebacker Austin Hancock
leads the Rams with 68 tackles. The Rams took what looked to be a big hit late in preseason camps when linebacker Stephen Hodge, the reigning Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, suffered a season ending injury but have played well. De'nard Pickney has done a solid job with 43 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 2 sacks and three interceptions at Will linebacker. DeAndre Slate (6-2, 270) is a quick, undersized nose tackle. Slate has made 59 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 5 1/2 sacks and six quarterback hurries. Matt Hugenberg
will need to block him to get the Army fullback dive going.
FORDHAM PASSING OFFENSE
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
Fordham's spread offense is ranked fourth in the FCS. The Rams are averaging 43.2 points per game and 509 passing yards per game. The Rams All-American quarterback Mike Nebrich was hit on the knee last week against Georgetown and limped off the field and did not return. His status for the game is uncertain. Nebrich has completed 202 of his 305 pass attempts (66.2%) for 2,663 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. Peter Maetzold replaced the injured Nebrich and completed 15 -
of -19 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns against Georgetown. Maetzold has played well when
he had to start after Nebrich had his appendix removed. On the season he has completed 74-of-105 passes (70.5%) 937 passing yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Whoever starts has plenty of quality targets. Wide receiver Sam Ajala (53 rec., 932 yards, 17.6, 3 TDs) was an All-American in 2013 when he caught 93 passes for 1,646 yards and 14 scores. Tight end Dan Light (41 rec., 364 yards, 8.9 avg., 6 TDs) earned All American honors as well last season. Tebucky Jones
Jr. is the son of a former NFL player and he leads the Rams with 66 receptions, 991 yards, 15.0 avg. and nine scores. Wide receiver Brian Wetzel
has caught 66 passes for 854 yards, a 12.9 average and seven touchdowns.
The Black Knights pass defense is ranked 85th in the nation. Army's cornerbacks Josh Jenkins
(58 tackles, 4 INTs,11 PD) and Chris Carnegie
(45 tackles, 3 INTs, 9 PD) actually did a solid job in coverage against WKU explosive receivers despite the Hail Mary pass and three passing touchdowns.
Army allowed only 178 passing yards. It was only the second game that WKU's Brad Doughty threw for less than 297 passing yards all season. The new safeties Rhyan England
(24 tackles, PD ) and Luke Prouix (23 tackles ) have struggled in coverage and will be tested in this game against the Rams. Andrew King
(48 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks) returned at inside linebacker and posted his team leading third sack. The Black Knights did a better job generating pressure against the Hilltoppers. They need to force the Rams out of their passing rhythm this game.
FORDHAM RUSHING OFFENSE
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Fordham runs a spread one running back attack. Freshman running back Chase Edmonds
has had a huge year. He was added during the season to the 2014 Payton Award Watch List due to his outstanding play. He has rushed 239 times for 1,407 yards, 6.2 average with the 21 scores. Edmonds has earned Patriot League rookie of the week honors six times in 2014 and offensive player of the week twice. Edmonds not only joined Nebrich on the Payton watch list but on the injury report. Edmonds has been battling some soreness from carrying the ball so much all season. Sophomore running back Kendall Pearcey (551 yards, 6.6 avg. 6 TDs) had 14 carries for 89 yards and three touchdowns against Georgetown with Edmonds resting much of the game. All of the Fordham quarterbacks are pure traditional drop back passers and pose not much of a running threat. The offensive line is led by preseason All-American left tackle Mason Halter.
Army dropped to 100th in the nation against the run after the defense's meltdown against Western Kentucky. Army's defense is allowing 34.7 points per game. The Black Knights were run over by the Hilltoppers for 383 rushing yards, allowing 9.3 per carry and four rushing touchdowns. Leon Allen
had a career day. He broke the Conference USA single-game rushing yards record with 345 yards. Sophomore inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf
leads the Black Knights with 93 tackles, 13 TFL, a sack, three interceptions and six passes defensed. Linebacker Stephen Ricciardi
(42 tackles) is second on the team with eight tackles for losses. Army's defensive line must play better this week. I think they will benefit this week from seeing the same scheme with less talented players.
REMARKS: The Rams have All-Patriot League players at both kicker and punter. Kicker Michael Marando has made 15-of-21 field goals. Punter Joe Pavlik has averaged 40.1 yards on 39 punts. He has 12 placed inside the twenty yard line with five over fifty yards. Brian Wetzel is an All-Patriot League punt return man averaging 11.4 per return in addition to his receiving prowess. Chase Edmonds averaged 20.6 per kickoff returns. The Rams are average on their coverage teams but have blocked three punts. Marando's kickoffs are usually short.
Army's Daniel Grochowski has made 6-of-11 field goal attempts this year. Last week Grochowski hit the ball well from 43-yards on a made field goal then badly missed a chip shot from 22 yards out. The snap was low but Schurr did a nice job of getting the ball down. Cale Brewer had one touch back on five kickoffs and made two tackles including one huge hit. Punter Alex Tardieu is averaging 39.4 yards on 38 punts with 18 of his punts being fair caught, 16 being placed inside the twenty yard line and five traveling over fifty yards. Tardieu has seen only five of his punts returned all season. New punt returner Edgar Poe had two punt returns for just three yards. Army just doesn't block on punt returns. Josh Jenkins and Chris Carnegie did a decent job returning WKU's short kickoffs except for the one Jenkins failed to field. Army has struggles the last two games on kick coverage after doing a good job early in the year.
Joe Moorhead has done an amazing coaching job at his alma mater. He took over a 1-11 team and went 6-5 in his first year in 2012. Moorhead has led the Rams to a 22-3 record over the past two years with back-to-back NCAA FCS Championship appearances. The Rams’offense led the NCAA FCS in pass completion percentage, was third in passing offense and first downs and seventh in total offense. Fordham also became the first team in NCAA history to have a 4,000-yard passer, three 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher. Moorhead has 14 years of collegiate coaching experience most recently as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Connecticut
Jeff Monken enters the game with a 41-23 (.641%) career record. As Army fans have seen this season he'll need some time to rebuild the program. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman had a sound game plan on defense against Western Kentucky passing attack but the Black Knights couldn't get off blocks up front to stop the Hilltoppers running game. The experience of last week should help the Black Knights against the Rams who run a similar system. Brent Davis
's offense has seen some starters back on his offensive line and the Black Knights have returned to its early season form running the ball.
REMARKS: I'm sure many of Fordham's underclassmen will be looking for some payback after Army crushed them in the snow 55-0 in 2011. The Rams will be excited to show how talented they are on national television against an FBS opponent. The Black Knights will be focused with this being Senior Day and the last game played at Michie Stadium by this senior class. Army will be motivated off a bad road showing and the fact they don't want to be embarrassed by another FCS team at home. This team has often followed a bad road loss with a big effort at Michie Stadium the following week.
ARMY 42, FORDHAM 35. I guess if one looks at the categories then you might wonder why I'm picking Army when I believe on paper the Rams are better in so many key match-up categories. The reason is because I think Army's best strength, their running game, will be the difference. The Rams defense will be facing the most physical offense system they've seen all season. The only other time they were confronted by a team that was more physical than them was against Villanova
and they allowed 50 points. Fordham is a very good team with a lot of talented players. If you break down their strengths they have advantages over Army but it’s not huge or particularly meaningful in most areas. For example, Fordham has a good secondary but Army will rarely pass. The Rams have a talented offense and will move the ball but the Black Knights cornerbacks match up well and will probably make a few plays to force some punts like they did last week. I believe playing against WKU's similar offensive system last week will help with Army's preparation and allow the run defense to tighten even if the Rams will likely put up points. In addition two of the Rams best players, their quarterback Nebrich and running back Edmonds, enter the game banged up from last week. Army usually loses on special teams because of their inconsistent kicking and anemic return teams. Marando is more accurate but he lacks a big leg for long kicks and his kickoffs are short which should give Army good field position Brian Wetzel ability as a punt returner gives them the edge but Tardieu rarely allows anyone to return his punts with his hang time. The Black Knights always seem to be a much better and more capable team at Michie Stadium. I don't think the Black Knights are going to roll like they did in 2011 but I think this senior class offensive backfield will be the difference. Fordham has the offense to beat Army but I don't believe the Rams will be able to stop the Army running game.
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