The Owls (3-3) are a team which has lost big against competition like Texas and Baylor, but has held their own against the lower level teams they have faced. Rice boasts a dual threat quarterback of the type that can give defensive coordinators nightmares, but is a team that Army should be able to move the ball against.
Here are the three keys to Army’s clash with the Owls:
1) Slow down Driphus Jackson
Jackson is the best player on the Owls team and as quarterback he touches the ball on every down. As mentioned he is a dual threat who has thrown 18 passes of at least 20 yards this season, while also chipping in touchdown runs including one of 43-yards. Jackson was a terror when Army played Rice last year as he completed 13-of-14 passes early in the game, giving the Owls a huge boost and a platform off of which to build effectively with the run. Jackson was the reason Rice was able to overcome the elements two weeks ago against Florida Atlantic as he engineered a masterful last drive which covered 83 yards in the last minutes of the game. Army will have to keep his stat totals down to win.
2) Sustain the run defense
While Army has often been known for its rushing offense the team in 2015 is also proving to be very adept at stopping the run on defense. Army ranks number 48 in the nation against the run, giving up just 150.4 yards per game on the ground. This may not sound massively impressive, but when you consider that the Black Knights defensive linemen and linebackers are undersized compared to their opponents it is much more impressive. Army has done an outstanding job all year of getting off of blocks and using the team’s speed in the back seven to strop other teams running the ball effectively. Rice has a stable of backs to call upon, so the Black Knights defenders will have to be focused and fresh on every play to keep the Owls at bay.
3) Win the turnover battle
It seems like every week turnovers are mentioned here, but Army simply must do better at holding onto the football. Three turnovers last weekend kept a weaker team (Bucknell) in the game for longer than should have been possible. Somewhat unbelievable, Rice comes into this game with a worse giveaway/takeaway record than Army as the Owls are at -8 to the Black Knights -7. The Rice defense can be passed on, but if A.J. Schurr takes to the air he must be more precise and his throws cannot be into double coverage like they were at times last Saturday.