The 2-8 Black Knights look, by record at least, to be competitive with the 3-7 Scarlet Knights, but Rutgers has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation over the last month to fall into this predicament. The Scarlet Knights have dropped four in a row by a combined 130 points, a fact mitigated when you consider three of those losses came to highly ranked teams (Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan).
With that being said here are the three keys to Army’s clash with the Scarlet Knights:
1) Defend Leonte Carroo
Army has been susceptible to the big play this fall, a fact that has marred an otherwise generally solid performance by the defense. In Leonte Carroo the Scarlet Knights have a player who is the most dangerous big play threat they have faced all season. This is not a good combination for Army. Carroo has scored nine touchdowns this fall and averages a ridiculous 21 yards per reception. Carroo is a threat to score wherever he touches the ball on the field and the Army defensive backfield must be aware of this fact and swarm to the ball as he is often able to make the first defender miss in space.
2) Put pressure on the Rutgers offensive line
The Rutgers offensive line has been in pieces this week. Part of that is due to the fact that last Saturday Nebraska managed to sack quarterback Chris Laviano six times, while the rest is to do with injuries and attrition to the starting unit. On Monday no less than four of the five starters were on the injury report as either probable or questionable for the game. Rutgers may be forced to throw a couple of redshirt freshmen in at the guard spots as the whole line is likely to be shifted into different positions depending on the personnel who can actually go on Saturday. Army needs to take advantage of this line flux by pressuring Laviano and racking up the sacks.
3) Run the ball
Going back to basics here, but Army has to run the ball well against Rutgers to have a chance of winning the game. Rutgers has historically had great success against triple-option teams, going 12-2 over their last 14 games and holding their opponents rushing attack under their season average in 10 of the last 11 triple-option games. The Black Knights come into the game ninth nationally running the ball, moving it at 253.3 yards per game. Army also runs the ball six times for every one pass thrown, so for the Black Knights to have a shot against the team that Jeff Monken called “the most talented we face all year” the ball just has to be moved on the ground successfully.