The Army Black Knights take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the final home at Michie Stadium this season. It’s been a very disappointing year for both teams. The Black Knights are 2-8 following a 34-31 home loss to Tulane last Saturday. Tulane's Andrew DiRocco hit the game-winning 35-yard field goal as time expired. Army jumped out to an early 7-0 lead but Tulane followed with 28 consecutive points. Army mounted a furious comeback as Army's Ahmad Bradshaw hit Edgar Poe for a touchdown to tie the game at 31-31 with 1:59 left in the fourth quarter. Tulane then drove for the winning field goal. Rutgers had a rough second season in the Big Ten. They are 3-7 after a 31-14 setback to Nebraska at home. Rutgers trailed all game and was badly outplayed by the Cornhuskers. Nebraska's defense limited Rutgers offense to 259 yards and posted eleven tackles for losses. Rutgers have won nine straight in the series and hold a 21-18 advantage in the all-time series.
ARMY'S PASSING OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS PASS DEFENSE
Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw completed 6-of-10 passes for 121 yards with two touchdown passes last week against Tulane. Bradshaw has completed 23-of-48 passes (47.9%) for 429 passing yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions this season. Slotback John Trainor showed his speed and hands last week with three receptions for 81 yards and a score. Army wide receiver Edgar Poe (9 rec, 225 yds., 25.0 avg,, 4 TD) made a nice catch of Bradshaw's back shoulder pass to for the touchdown that tied the Tulane game 31-31. Wide receiver DeAndre Bell has five receptions for 121 receiving yards, a 24.2 average and one touchdown. Army's offensive line is ranked dead last in sack percentage in the FBS.
The Rutgers passing defense ranks 118th in the nation and is allowing opponents an average of 291 yards per game. Rutgers has struggled in coverage but has posted 11 interceptions this season in 10 games. Rutgers picked off a season high three passes last week against Nebraska. Free safety Anthony Cioffi recorded his fourth interception this season against the Cornhuskers. Cornerback Isaiah Wharton has 49 tackles, picked off a pass and has a team leading six passes defensed. Upfront the Scarlet Knights are athletic but they do not rush the passer as well as they have in the past. Rutgers has 12 sacks this season.
ARMY'S RUSHING OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS RUSHING DEFENSE
Army is averaging 21.8 points per contest and ranks ninth nationally with 257.4 rushing yards per contest. Last week Army ran for 216 rushing yards, averaged 3.9 yards per carry and scored just one rushing touchdown against Tulane. Bradshaw (468 yards, 3.6 avg., 5 TDs) seemed to have his burst back after battling an ankle injury. Bradshaw ripped off a 41-yard run that set up the Trainor touchdown pass. Bradshaw missed a number of reads but ran hard and broke tackles. His main issue was fumbling officially three times, losing one, but he fumbled two other center exchanges. Ahmad was pulling out too quickly from under center rather than riding forward as a triple option quarterback needs to do. He was hit by Green Wave defensive tackle Tanzel Smart as he went to pitch the ball and the costly fumble was way behind the motion slotback. Parry Nickerson recovered the loose ball and raced 48 yards into the end zone to give Tulane a 21-7 lead. B-backs Aaron Kemper (447 yards, 5.4 avg., 2 TDs) and Matt Giachinta (274 yds., 4.8 avg., TD) had trouble finding running room the last two games as the Black Knights offensive line has been unable to establish the fullback dive.
The Scarlet Knight run defense is ranked 53rd in the nation and 101st in the nation in total defense. The strength of the RU defense is their linebacking corp. Steve Longa is a tackling machine. He is the second player in school history with three seasons of at least 100 tackles. Longa leads Rutgers with 111 tackles, has recorded 2 sacks and forced two fumbles. Linebacker Quentin Gause 81 tackles, has 12 tackles for a loss and one sack. The other linebacker Kaiwan Lewis has 61 tackles, four for a loss and two picks. Rutgers has played very well against the option teams in the Schiano-Flood era.
RUTGERS PASSING OFFENSE VS. ARMY'S PASSING DEFENSE
The Scarlet Knights passing offense is ranked 93rd overall in the country. Sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano hasn't thrown a touchdown in the last four games since he had a career-best 386 passing yards at Indiana. Laviano completed 13-of-27 passes for 165 yards and threw two interceptions against Nebraska. Laviano was sacked six times and had 11 tackles for losses. This season Laviano has completed 153-of-253 passes for 1,798 yards (60.5%) with 12 TDs and 11 interceptions. He has a future NFL target in wide receiver Leonte Carroo. He has been battling injuries all year. Carroo is a big play machine with 28 career receiving touchdowns in 29 career games. The All-Big Ten receiver has 28 receptions for 589 yards, a 21.0 average per catch with nine touchdowns. Possession receiver Andre Patton has 30 catches for 383 yards, a 12.8 average and a touchdown. Rutgers offensive line has allowed 25 sacks and has struggled to protect Laviano at times.
Army's passing defense is ranked 73rd in the country this season allowing 230 passing yards per game. Last week Tulane’s quarterback Tanner Lee completed 14-of-29 passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and Army picked him off once. The Black Knights did a solid job in coverage most of the game but were killed by big plays. Brandon Jackson (54 tackles, 2 sack, 3 INTs, 4 PD) picked off a tipped ball to set up a field goal against the Green Wave. His sack forced a punt. Senior cornerback Chris Carnegie (23 tackles, INT, 6 PD) was benched last game after he sat on Veal's inside move and allowed him to beat him deep for a 90-yard touchdown pass. Marcus Hyatt replaced him. Both Hyatt and Rhyan England (56 tackles, 4 PD) were credited with pass breakups when they seemed to hit the receivers early. Safety Xavier Moss (59 tackles, INT, 4 PD) had six tackles last week and broke up a pass but was embarrassingly run over on Kendall Ardoin on his15-yard touchdown reception. Moss is often late providing deep help over the top. The Army secondary played better in the second half against the Green Wave as they had a total of five pass breakups but they couldn't stop Tulane when they needed to do it with the game on the line. Army has been able to pressure Rutgers quarterbacks when they have played the last three times in the Ellerson era.
RUTGERS RUSHING OFFENSE VS. ARMY'S RUSHING DEFENSE
Rutgers has three very talented running backs that split time. Running back Robert Morris leads the team with 622 yards, a 5.8 average and five scores. Josh Hicks (613 yards, 5.1 avg., 4 TDs) is a fast runner who has run a 10.7 100-meter yard dash. Paul James has started eight games. James has 64 carries for 357 yards, a 5.6 average and a touchdown. James has recovered from an ACL injury last year which has limited his carries. He had a 72-yard run against Michigan State. The Scarlet Knights fullback position is used almost exclusively used as a lead blocker in the running game. Chris Laviano is a pure pocket passer and not much of a run threat.
The Black Knights are ranked 48th in the nation against the run. Last game Army allowed 115 yards and a 4.1 average per carry and just one touchdown. They played solidly 90 percent of the snaps but gave up too many big plays. On the final drive when in their nickel package they gave up 24 costly rushing yards which allowed the Green Wave to kick the game winning field goal. Hilliard had a 23 yard run on the second Tulane touchdown. They also allowed Josh Rounds to race untouched for a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Mike LB Andrew King (80 tackles, 15 1/2, 4 1/2, 2 FR ) led the Black Knights with seven tackles and had a tackle for a loss last game. Fellow inside linebacker Jeremy Timpf is second on the team with 75 tackles, four for a loss with 1 1/2 sacks and a pick.
Kicker Kyle Federico has hit 9-of-13 field goals this year. He has made 26-of-29 extra points. Punter Joey Roth is averaging 38.8 per punt. He gets good hang time and has had 18 punts fair caught. The Scarlet Knights are very dangerous in their return game. Janarion Grant is averaging 25.6 on kickoff returns. Grant leads the nation with three kickoff return touchdowns this season. Grant is averaging 14.6 yards per return with a punt returned for a touchdown. Since 2009, Rutgers has blocked 43 kicks (field goals & punts) on special teams. The Scarlet Knights have blocked at least four kicks every year since 2007. The 43 blocked kicks are the most by any team in the NCAA during that span. Rutgers does a good job covering kick offs but have been below average covering punts.
Senior Daniel Grochowski has hit 5-of-6 field goal attempts his year. Grochowski hit a 38-yard field goal last week. He has 18 of his 43 kickoffs going for touchbacks Punter Alex Tardieu is averaging 40.3 per punt with 11 fair catches and 13 placed inside the twenty yard line. Marcus Hyatt is averaging 19.8 yards per kickoff return Edgar Poe has a 3.1 punt return average on ten returns. Army kick and punt coverage team have been good.
Kyle Flood was named the 29th head coach at Rutgers after former coach Greg Schiano resigned his position to become the head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Schiano had built Rutgers into a Big East powerhouse. Flood had served on the Rutgers’ coaching staff for the previous seven seasons. The embattled Rutgers coach Kyle Flood (26-23) is in his fourth year with questions whether he'll get a fifth following a season that has featured player dismissals and a three-game suspension for contacting a professor about a player's grade. Rutgers teams have historically done a good job defensively against triple option teams. Flood must win this game.
Jeff Monken and his staff started well but continue to make too many mental and physical errors to close the deal. Offensive coordinator Brent Davis did an excellent job in preparing the offense last week and obviously studied what Tulane did against Navy. He did a nice job managing the passing game and getting the backs to the perimeter. Army did a nice job on the last drive using the B gap to run the fullback for some positive yards away from the cluttered middle of the line. Defensive Coordinator Jay Bateman's defense had a great first series then the wheels fell off the rest of the half. They rebounded in the second half. Army was generally solid on defense but was hurt by allowing too many big plays. They aren’t able to get the key stops when they need it.
Rutgers has gone 12-2 against teams the feature the triple option since 2001. They have held triple option opponents to an average of 46.4 yards below their norm for the season. Option teams have gone for less than its season standard in 10 of the last 11 games against the Scarlet Knights. Last season against Navy, Rutgers held the Midshipmen to a season-low 171 rushing yards. Rutgers defense has been very successful in defending against option attacks. Rutgers has won nine straight in the series.
Army played Rutgers tough even when the Scarlet Knights were a lot better team during the last three games of the Ellerson era. The Black Knights are always pumped up for Senior Day. They should be primed for their final home game. The Black Knights are historically a lot better team at Michie Stadium.
PREDICTION: Rutgers, 31-21. Army has played better Rutgers teams tough their last few meetings. Rutgers isn't as good as they have been but Army isn't a Big 10 team either. Superstar wide receiver Leonte Carroo is finally healthy which isn't good news for Army. Rutgers may be 3-7 but they have some quality players that the Black Knights do not match up well against.