Army Opponent Preview: Bucknell

The Black Knights seventh game in as many weeks sees them play host to the Bucknell Bison on Saturday October 17. This will be the second and final time during the 2015 season in which Army plays host to a FCS opponent after the visit of Fordham in week one.

2014 Record: 8-3 (4-2 in the Patriot – Second in the Patriot League).

Series Record: Army leads the series against Bucknell 5-0 in a game which has been played sporadically throughout history. The Black Knights won the series opener 18-10 in 1900, before holding Bucknell to just 18 points over the next four meetings. This included a 20-2 win in 1911, which is interesting if only for the fact that this score is one rarely seen.

Last Meeting: The last meeting between Army and Bucknell was a 37-6 win for the Black Knights in November of 1995. Somewhat shockingly the second half of this game can be found in its entirety on YouTube for anyone who feels like reliving a game which was far from a classic.

Head Coach: Joe Susan is entering his sixth season as the Bison head coach with a 24-31 (.436) win/loss record. Susan was hired at Bucknell after a nine year stint as the offensive line and tight ends coach at Rutgers. He was also the head coach at Davidson when the Wildcats posted the program,s only perfect season in 2000, but left at the end of the year for a job with the Scarlet Knights.

Spring News: Bucknell ran fifteen practices this spring, ending with a situational scrimmage at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. As with many teams in the spring it was the defense which had the coaches raving, while the offense was something of a disappointment. This was obvious late in the spring where the defense would continually make interceptions and break up passes in seven on seven drills.

Projected Strengths: The Bucknell secondary should once again be strong as the team looks to back up its best overall record in more than two decades last fall. The Bison runs a hybrid defense with an extra safety often on the field. The star of the back five is Second Team All-Patriot League selection Clayton Ewell, but there is not a weakness among this group.

Bucknell has a talented trio of skill players returning in quarterback R.J. Nitti, running back C.J. Williams and wide receiver Will Carter. Nitti threw for over 1,500 yards in seven games last fall before getting injured, while Williams will look to become the first 1,000 yard rusher for the Bison in over a decade after injuries stopped him at 959 yards last year. Carter is a First Team All-Patriot League selection and is good enough to give FBS cornerbacks problems with his route running.

Projected Weaknesses: Bucknell could definitely have some issues at linebacker this fall after two of their better players from a year ago (Evan Byers and Lee Marvel) used up their eligibility. The transition this spring was not particularly easy, with a number of second year players competing with converted safety Thomas Bodolus for playing time. Mistakes from this group in the spring cannot carry over into game situations.

It is not often that a weakness will be directed at the kicking spot, but Bucknell has to replace a do all player at the position. Derek Maurer was 11-of-14 on field goals and 24-of-29 on extra points for the Bison last fall, but that only tells half the story. Maurer was also the Bucknell kick-off specialist AND the punter, averaging 35.4 yards per punt on 50 punts. Even if Maurer was not exception at any one aspect of the kicking game, he was solid in all departments. At an FCS school solid can sometimes be difficult to replace.

Prediction: Losing the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year (Byers) and his 382 career tackles is massive. If Bucknell can find a way to get close to the defensive production of he, Marvel and defensive lineman Demitrius Baldwin-Youngblood, then the Bison will be okay in 2015. The offense loses very little, and with people coming back from injury the skill positions are improved from the stretch fun last year. Army should have too much for the Bison, but this is a program on the rise and if the Black Knights come in with the wrong attitude they could be in for a scare.

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