Key Matchups: Army at Eastern Michigan

The fourth game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (Sagarin 140, 0-3) and the Mid-American West Conference Eastern Michigan Eagles (Sagarin 166, 1-2.)

Army leads the all-time series 5-1, with the last victory coming two years ago at West Point.  This was the game where Terry Baggett ran for four touchdowns on 304 yards, including a 96 yard touchdown run.  Eastern Michigan looks to reach the .500 mark on the season and Army looks for their first win.

Last Week

At West Point, Wake Forest sophomore place kicker, Mike Weaver, drilled a 47 yard field goal as time expired to beat the Black Knights 17-14. 

The Army defense limited the Wake Forest passing offense to 175 yards on 18 of 33 attempts.  Freshman defensive back Brandon Jackson from Queens, N.Y., had two interceptions and junior linebacker Jeremy Timpf had one.  The Demon Deacons did gain 171 yards on the ground, but 101 of those yards were gained by freshman quarterback Kendall Hinton, many on scrambles after the play had broken down.

The Army defense played about as well as we could have expected.  They forced turn-overs and only gave up 17 points.  Andrew King (also from Queens), Xavier Moss, Brandon Jackson, Jeremy Timpf and T.J. Atimalala had good days.  The defense is definitely improving, but the pressure on the quarterback must get better as the better quarterbacks will eat the Black Knight freshman- heavy defense for lunch if given time. Our hats off to Jay Bateman who has really gotten this defense under control since the first game of the year.

The Army offense came up short.  They gained 218 yards and 11 first downs.  One of Army’s touchdowns was a one play, nine yard drive that came after an interception.  The other touchdown was also set up by a second quarter interception that gave them the ball at mid-field.

The Black Knights were contained for most of the day.  There were a couple of nice runs by sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw after he was able to break initial tackles.  But on the day, he was held to 61 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.  He was 2 for 3 for 54 yards and was sacked once when passing.  Christian Drake had the other touchdown run and was the second leading rusher with 37 yards.

We believe that we have found the best Army quarterback since Ronnie McAda.  However, with nine defenders in the box, even Ronnie McAda was rarely successful.  We were tremendously excited when Bradshaw opened up against Fordham throwing the ball, but we have seen the offense drift back into the run only orientation.  We don’t know if Brent Davis did not want to test his offensive line’s ability to protect Bradshaw or if it is just the Bob Sutton “fullback dives creates opportunity” theology.  We encourage Davis to throw much more often.  Army has not often had a quarterback and receiver corps of this ability.  Throw first – get the linebackers out of the backfield and open some running lanes.  There is a lot of speed in the backfield – they just need to be given a chance to run.

Overall this was a tough game to lose.  Army knocked out the first string quarterback John Wolford and was working against a freshman.  Army created three turnovers and limited Wake Forest to 17 points.  There were a couple of tough plays in the fourth quarter that made a difference.  The first was Daniel Grochowski’s 39-yard field goal attempt that never had a chance.  The second was a missed opportunity on a third-and 12 from the Army 44 in the closing minutes.  Drake was open and Bradshaw threw it behind him.  If he hits Drake in stride or if Drake stops and catches the ball, the game probably turns out differently.

Army is 0-3.  They have lost to two teams that they beat last year and lost to a Wake Forest Team that will not win five games this year.  If Army were going to reach the Poinsettia Bowl this year, they would have needed a 2-1 start.  However, Army has shown tremendous improvement on defense, and we absolutely love what we have seen from Bradshaw so far.  With a freshmen/sophomore dominated team, better days are ahead.  We would like them to come sooner rather than later, but they will come.

In Ypsilanti, the Eagles surrendered 28 unanswered points to lose to the Ball State Cardinals 28-17.

Sophomore Quarterback Brogan Roback was 19/39 for 196 yards with two interceptions.  The Eagle ground game was well managed, gaining 123 yards on 22 carries.  Senior running back Darius Jackson gained 97 yards on seven carries and had both touchdowns.  The offense was well balanced until the Eagles fell behind.  Both interceptions came in the fourth quarter as Roback was trying to force a comeback.

The Eastern Michigan defense was porous.  The Eagles gave up 474 total yards, 278 coming on the ground on 52 carries.  Sophomore running back Darian Green doubled his season production gaining 164 yards on 25 carries. 

Who is favored?

Eastern Michigan is favored by 2 points

What to look for?

This is another pillow fight; two teams ranked below 125 and one has to win.  The Eagle Defense is averaging 312 rushing yards per game and that is against the likes of Old Dominion, Wyoming and Ball State.  Army averages 207 yards per game rushing, but it is not for a lack of effort.  This will be a game where Army rushes for nearly 400 yards. The Eagles will have a hard time stopping Bradshaw and company. Expect to see several long runs.

The Eagles average 423 yards per game on offense with 238 coming in the air.  We suspect that Bateman will continue to shuffle between zone blitzes and zone coverages to confuse the young quarterback.  We expect the Eagles to be successful through the air and Roback should have a big day, but the hungry Black Knights will probably force a couple of turnovers that will be the difference.

Army has not won a road game since 2010, but this game looks to have the makings to break that trend.  We like the game to go over and for Army to have their best offensive production of the year. 

Final Score – Army 42 – Eastern Michigan 28 (predictions in 2015, 1-2)

Game will be shown on ESPN3 @ 6:00 PM EST.

 


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