Three Keys: Fordham

The Fordham Rams are an FCS team -- that much is true. What's also true is that Vin Scully's alma mater has lost only one game all season, and can score a lot of points. Given that Army just gave up a boatload of touchdowns to Western Kentucky, there shouldn't be any sense of complacency in the Black Knights' locker room. Army's defense should expect to be tested on Saturday.


THREE KEYS TO BEATING FORDHAM

1 – Muscle over tactics and expectations.
Western Kentucky owned a prolific passing attack, but it busted out the ground game to catch Army off balance. Fordham is a passing team, but the Rams do manage to collect something in the area of 140 rushing yards even while they pass the ball most of the time and get bigger numbers from that part of their offense. Fordham’s ground game is good enough to make defenses respect the run, and that helps the passing game to remain as productive as it has been for the Rams. With Fordham’s skill set on offense, the Rams have a core strength in the air, but it’s a strength that has been supplemented by solid production on the ground.

If you look through Fordham’s season, one of the few times the Rams were contained was in a 30-27 overtime win over Bucknell on Nov. 7. Fordham scored only 24 points in regulation, clearly its only bad outing since an early-September loss at Villanova. How did Bucknell corral the Rams’ offense? It limited Fordham to 31 rushing yards. (Three takeaways didn’t hurt, either, but the Bison did not get blown away at the line of scrimmage.) Bucknell showed that strong defensive line play is the best way to handle a passing team that can run when needed. Army has to devalue tactics (though they’re obviously still needed…) and devote more of its focus to simply overpowering Fordham’s offensive linemen. If Army’s front four doesn’t get a good push, this game will be a struggle throughout.

2 – Simplify the approach on offense, too. When Army plays Navy, both teams know what’s coming: triple-option looks and a continuous search for the right reads that can bust open big plays. The best way for Army to prepare for Navy – enhanced by the fact that it is playing an FCS defense – is to keep the playbook simple and win by virtue of strength, speed and precision.

Vin Scully is one famous alumnus of Fordham. Another one is Vince Lombardi. You might recall that Lombardi was fond of executing a few plays extremely well. He didn’t believe in a complicated playbook – executing something perfectly was always the best play. Army should take that advice to heart against Fordham and cultivate that ability to master its five or six best plays. Green Bay Packer precision (from the 1960s) will serve Army well against the Midshipmen. Might as well get started now.

3 – Take notes on Fordham’s two quarterbacks. In Fordham’s most recent game against Georgetown, two passers both threw at least 17 passes and completed more than two-thirds of them. One quarterback, though, took shots downfield, while the other did not. Peter Maetzold completed 15-of-19 passes for 285 yards (19 yards per completion), while Mike Nebrich went 12-of-17 for 67 yards (5.6 yards per completion). Key number one means more than this key, but as was said above, it’s not as though tactics are irrelevant to this game. They’re just secondary to physical strength and the ability to win individual battles.

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