Key Matchups: Army vs. Fordham

The first game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (Sagarin 134, 2014 4-8) and FCS Patriot League Fordham Rams (Sagarin 159, 2014 11-3.) Army leads the all-time series 4-0, with Army beating the Rams 42-31 last year at Michie.

At one point, Fordham was leading the game 10-0, and in the waning seconds of the first half, Josh Jenkins blocked a punt and Lamar Johnson-Harris covered the ball in the end-zone to give Army the lead. Last year, Army did not win a game in which they trailed at the half. Army dominated the second half and gave up a late score.

Fordham looks to shake off significant attrition, continue their streak of good football seasons and start the year by beating an FBS school. Army will have many players starting for the first time. We will also see as many as twelve freshman play in the game. This will be a good test for a very young team.


In the off season
The Black Knights return six starters from last year’s squad and will be looking for their first winning regular season and Commander-in-Chief Trophy since 1996.

Last year the Army West Point rushing offense ranked fifth in the nation, averaging 296 yards per game. The Black Knight offense had the second fewest three-and-out drives in the country (19), behind only Georgia Tech. Army’s passing attack failed to provide any offensive balance as it ranked last. The Monken wishbone offense will return, but the players carrying the football will be different as the majority of its skill position players graduated.

Senior signal caller, A.J. Schurr, started two games last season and looks to recover from a shoulder injury to lead the Army offense this season. He is the team’s leading returning rusher with 320 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. We may see sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw get playing time in this game. In spring and summer camp he has looked impressive and may hold up better than the injury and turnover prone Schurr.

A host of inexperienced running backs will get their shot this season, including starting split backs, junior Joe Walker (75 yards and two touchdowns last year) and sophomore John Trainor, while Elijah St. Hilaire will also be battling for playing time in the backfield. Senior Matt Giachinta and junior Aaron Kemper (152 and 158 yards, respectively in 2014) will be lined up at fullback for the majority of the offensive snaps.

Although last season Army West Point averaged only eight pass attempts per game, they return their leading receiver, Edgar Poe (199 yards on 10 receptions), who is expected to be flanked out in the single receiver sets.

The offensive line will be the strength of this team, anchored by senior and returning starting center Matt Hugenburg. Veteran Ryan Alexander, Justin Gilbert, Jaryn Villegas and Brett Troth also are set to start.

On defense, the Black Knights will replace six starters, including the entire defensive line from a unit that was ranked 90th in total defense last year. The top four tacklers return this season, including leading tackler Jeremy Timpf, who will look to anchor the linebacker unit along with last season’s sack leader, Andrew King. John Voit, who played in 11 games last season, is poised to take over one of the ends with a host of newcomers looking to fill the other spots along the line. Army’s secondary will be significantly handicapped as Josh Jenkins may be out for the year with a broken jaw. Chris Carnegie and Steven Johnson will fill the safety positions.

The Army West Point kickers Daniel Grochowski and Alex Tardieu, are back, but special teams must improve the return game after coming in near the bottom nationally in both kickoff and punt returns.

The Fordham Rams are favored to win the Patriot League this year, however, they were a senior laden team last year and they only return three starters on offense. Sophomore running back Chase Edmonds was their best player last year and he returns. Their starting junior quarterback, Kevin Anderson, is a transfer from Marshall.

Who is favored? Fordham is a FCS School and therefore there is no official line. If there were a line, Army would be favored by seven points.

What to look for?
Army West Point held sophomore RB Chase to 69 yards rushing last year. The Black Knights most likely will take away the run and put the onus on QB Anderson. Anderson has looked good in summer practice and may have some big plays against the Jenkins-less defensive backfield.

The Rams had a difficult time with triple option last year. With the loss of most of their starters, this should be a great game one match up for the Black Knight offense. Behind the veteran offensive line, Army should have success in all facets. During spring practice, the team has shown more size and speed than it had last year, and this game could provide some much needed experience.

Expect the Army West Point team to score often. Expect some big plays and turnovers from the new Ram offense. This is the first game of the year, Army West Point is healthy, motivated and certainly not over confident. The Army Team should prevail.

Final Score – Army 42 – Fordham 28 (predictions in 2014, 5-7)

Game will be shown on Friday, September 4th on CBSCSTV @ 7:00 PM EST.

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