David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

HEAD TO HEAD: ARMY VS. BUCKNELL

Army faces Bucknell on Saturday at Michie Stadium. ArmySports.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. He also makes a prediction on the game's final score.

The Army Black Knights enter this game off a terrible 44-3 home loss to Duke. It was Army's worst home defeat since 55-0 blowout against Baylor in 1979. The Bucknell Bison of the FCS head to Michie Stadium to play an FBS opponent for the first time since 2001. Bucknell is coming off a 21-10 home loss to Lehigh last week. Bucknell returned 13 starters from last year’s squad that finished last season at 8-3. It was the Bison's best finish since 1997. Bucknell has won 16 of its last 22 games.  Army needs to get its running game on track after fumbling 14 times over the last two games. Army has won all five meetings in the series. Army defeated Bucknell 37-6 in their last meeting in 1995.

ARMY'S PASSING OFFENSE

VS.

BUCKNELL'S PASS DEFENSE

EDGE: EVEN

Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw returned to line-up off the bench against Duke and really struggled last week. He completed 2-of-6 passes for 55 yards with an interception. Bradshaw made his best throw a 37-yard pass to Kelvin White down to the Duke two but the Black Knights failed to score. Bradshaw was intercepted when a high pass was batted by wide receiver Edgar Poe and picked off. Bradshaw has completed 13-of-28 passes (46.4%) for 249 passing yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions this season. Slotback John Trainor leads the team with four passes for 72 yards and is averaging 18.0 yards per game. A.J. Schurr left the Duke game with a bad thigh bruise last week. Schurr has completed 6-of-13 passes (46.2%) for 182 passing yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Bradshaw was taking the first team snaps this week and will likely be the starter again. 

The Bucknell Bison returned seven starters back from last year’s eight win team including Preseason All-League strong safety Clayton Ewell (53 TT, 4 INT in 2014) in the secondary. Ewell has 34 tackles, five tackles for a loss, a sack and three pass break-ups this year. He is a very good player. Cornerback Colin Jonov had a 51-yard interception return last week against Lehigh. The Bison defense has produce 16 sacks in five games. Bucknell has a good pass rusher in defensive end Jimmy King who has 4 1/2 sacks and seven tackles for a loss already this year.

ARMY'S RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
BUCKNELL'S  RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: ARMY

Army ran for only 113 rushing yards, averaged 2.3 yards per carry and failed to score a touchdown against the Blue Devils. Army's young offensive line struggled against Duke's mesh charge and run blitzes. Duke defense constantly crashed hard and penetrated into the backfield. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw actually ran 15 times for a negative 33 yards. He fumbled four times and lost two. It was a mess. Bradshaw struggled with his reads and seemed to fall into the bad habits he showed at the prep school a few years ago. He had trouble reading the Duke mesh charge and pressure. Bradshaw fumbled a snap when he failed to ride forward with the center when taking the center exchange. It was a poor outing against a tough defense. Starting slotbacks Joe Walker. (184 yds., 8.8 avg., TD)  and John Trainor (173 yds., 9.1 avg., TD) have run well and blocked effectively for each other this year. Plebe B-back Drue Harris led Army with just 47 yards on four carries against Duke.  Harris earned most of his yards on Army's only scoring drive. He broke off a 22 -yard run inside the Duke ten yard line to set up the field goal. The big issue has been the condition of Army's offensive line. They have struggled with their health and blocking most of the year. Drew Hennessey is out this year and their best lineman Justin Gilbert is hurt. Army dropped to 12th nationally in rushing yards after its miserable performance against Duke.      

The Bucknell Bison have been recognized as a strong defensive team against the run under head coach Joe Susan. The defensive line is anchored by Patriot league Preseason All-League defensive tackle Abdullah Anderson (28 tackles in 2014). The sophomore has added 35 pounds since last year and Anderson is now a huge 6-4", 295 pounds. Mike linebacker Ben Richard (6-1, 235) leads Bucknell with 52 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, two sacks and two passes defensed. In five games this year the Bison have allowed an average of just 16.6 points per game. Bucknell has allowed only four rushing touchdowns and just 3.6 yards per carry this fall.

 

BUCKNELL'S PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
ARMY'S PASSING DEFENSE

EDGE: ARMY

Bucknell quarterback R.J. Nitti has completed 82-of-157 passed (52.2% %) for 918 passing yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions. Last season Nitti threw for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wide receiver Will Cater (53 rec., 959 yards, 9 TDs in 2014) was a Preseason All-Patriot League choice. Carter has an injury plagued season missing three games. Carter has caught 15 balls for 146 yards and two scores in two games. Carter has good speed and the Bison staff likes to get him the ball on bubble screens and reverses. Wide receiver Bobby Kaslander (6-2, 200) is a big possession receiver who has 13 receptions for 119 receiving yards. Kaslander has made a catch in every game this season. Bucknell has struggled at times in pass protection this year as they have allowed 12 sacks.

The Black Knights' pass defense has allowed 64.5 percent of the passes thrown against them to be completed.  Safety Xavier Moss made a career high 11 tackles last week against Duke. Moss has played a lot better the last few weeks with his positioning improved as he has become more comfortable at the strong safety position. Mike linebacker Andrew King leads the Black Knights pass rush with 39 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss and he has posted four quarterback sacks. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman will likely send King on passing downs against a Bucknell offensive line that has allowed 12 sacks already to create pressure.   

BUCKNELL'S RUSHING OFFENSE

VS.
ARMY'S RUSHING DEFENSE

EDGE: ARMY

Bucknell's six starters back on offense include running back C.J. Williams (901 yards, 9 TD in 2014). Williams was a onetime Navy recruit who attended the NAPS prep school but decided a military career wasn't the life for him.  Williams missed one game with an injury but still leads the team with 410 rushing yards and a 4.1 average. Bucknell hasn't run the ball nearly as well this year as last despite having two Preseason All-Patriot League offensive linemen in Ramy Kased and Julie'n Davenport. Right guard Devlin Brennan (Jr., 6-4, 295) was recruited and offered by the Ellerson staff when he was a high school senior. R.J. Nitti is a mobile quarterback and has rushed for a team leading four scores. Williams back up Matt DelMauro was ran for 173 yards, a 4.2 average and a touchdown. 

Army allowed Duke 215 rushing yards, a 4.5 average per carry and four rushing touchdowns last week. Army has held all six of its opponents below 215 yards rushing and three of those under 145 yards. The Black Knights held Penn State to a season best 108 yards on the ground. Junior inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf (43 tackles, 1/2 Sack, Int., FF, PD) leads the team in tackles. Defensive end John Voit made a career-best seven total tackles last week. Outside linebacker Bayle Wolf made a career-best 10 total tackles. Wolf has played his best football the last two weeks.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

EDGE: ARMY

Bucknell kicker John Burdick has struggled this season. He has made only three-of-seven field goal attempts. Punter Alex Pechin has punted 28 times for a 42.4 average and has placed seven inside the twenty yard line. Alex Pechin has three touchbacks on 16 kickoffs. Joey DeFloria returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown against VMI.  Alan Butler is averaging 6.2 per punt return. Bucknell's coverage teams are average.

Senior Daniel Grochowski made a field goal attempt against Duke. He has hit two of three tries this year. Senior punter Alex Tardieu is averaging 40.7 per punt. Seven of his 22 punts have been fair caught. Marcus Hyatt fumbled his first kickoff return attempt and put the offense in a hole at the eight yard line. Hyatt later had a nice 38-yard return. New punt returner Nick Black was tried on punt returns last week. He decided to fair catch a punt at the four yard line last week for some reason. Army coverage teams have been above average.

COACHING

EDGE: EVEN

Bucknell head coach Joe Susan has a 27-33 record but that doesn't tell the story. He built a 1-10 team from the ground up over the last five years. Susan has turned the Bison around winning 16 of the last 22 games. Susan played at Delaware for the legendary Tubby Raymond. He is a 40 year coaching veteran with long time assistant with Rutgers, Memphis, Bucknell, Princeton and Davidson. Susan teams are physical and look to run the ball and stop the run. 

Jeff Monken has a 43-29 (59.7%) career record. The fiery and intense Monken has a four year record at Georgia Southern of 38-16 (70.4%) but has struggled to a 5-13 record at West Point as he rebuilds the program. Monken's team has battled but they were over-matched last week against Duke. Army is fielding an extremely young and inexperienced squad.

INTANGIBLES

EDGE: ARMY

Army was embarrassed last week against Duke and will be looking to get back on track. Army lost their opener to FCS Fordham. Army has now lost two of their last three games against FCS opponents under Jeff Monken. They will not be overlooking this game. Army is 5-0 against Bucknell all time. Bucknell will be looking forward to play an FBS opponent in front of a nice crowd on national television. 

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PREDICTION:  Army, 38-10. I expect Army to unload its frustration on Bucknell. The Bison have a solid run defense but they have a rather limited offense. Bucknell will likely hang tough but they should get worn down and will have trouble handling Army's triple option attack.  Bucknell's offense hasn't run the ball as well as they did last year. 


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