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Key Matchups: Army vs. Rutgers

The eleventh game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (Sagarin 146, 2-8) and the Big Ten East Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Sagarin 95, 3-7.) 

Background

Rutgers leads the all-time series 21-8, and has won the last nine, dating back to 1998.  The last time these teams played was in 2012 and Army had a chance to win. The game was tied 7-7 in the fourth quarter.  Rutgers took the lead on short drive and then Army fumbled on the one yard line, and then their punter fumbled a snap for a returned touchdown for a final score of 28-7.  This season has been a disappointment for both teams.   For Army, this game will serve as a last chance to get things right before the Navy game.  For Rutgers, there really is no motivation, other than a loss to Army would bring this season to an unprecedented low for a program that has recently been successful.

Last Week

At West Point, Sophomore Andrew DiRocco kicked a 35 yard field goal as time expired to lift the Green Wave over the Black Knights 34-31.

If you like to watch poorly executed football, this was the game for you.  Army and Tulane put on a fabulous display of ineptitude that was so balanced, it came down to the final play to determine the outcome.

The game started with a fantastic Army drive.  Freshman running back Christian Drake took the third play of the game 47 yards on a pitch from sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw.  Drake showed speed not seen in an Army jersey.  He flashed down the sideline for what was close to an Army score, but a holding penalty brought the play back to the Tulane 35.  On a fourth-and-11 Joe Walker took a pitch and threw the ball back to Ahmad Bradshaw for another apparent score, but this was also called back for a hold.  Finally, on the 13th play of the drive, Army scored a touchdown. But the holding calls were a harbinger of the mistakes that we would see throughout the game. A snap over the head of the punter and then a returned fumble for a touchdown would put the Black Knights down 21-7.  Army would rally to eventually tie the game up in the fourth quarter only to lose on the final drive.

Offensive coordinator Brent Davis knew that Army would have a difficult time against the Green Wave front five and did things differently this game.  The most notable was that the fullbacks ran into the B Gap rather than into the heart of the very large Tulane defensive line.  They also used the pass around the goal line as Bradshaw was 6 of 10 for 121 yards for two touchdowns. Sophomore running back John Trainer caught three passes and junior receiver Edgar Allen Poe caught two.  Along with a fake field goal attempt, this creativity was very appreciated and hopefully a little more of what we can expect to see going forward.

The Army offense gained 216 yards on the ground on 55 carries.  Bradshaw led all rushers with 72 yards, followed by Drake with 69.  Seven other Black Knights carried the ball as new ball carriers are being introduced.

The surprise of the day was Tulane’s ability to move the ball.  Sophomore Tanner Lee was 14 of 29 for 252 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.  On several passes, Lee looked as though he had never thrown a ball, yet on other attempts, he was perfect.  Army had only one sack by freshman cornerback Brandon Jackson on a blitz.  Other than that, Lee had a lot of time to find receivers crossing over the middle.  Lee was definitely disrupt-able, but Army was unable to take advantage. Tulane also rushed for 115 yards on 28 carries, led by Sophomore running back Dontrell Hillard who gained 91 yards on 14 carries.

Junior linebacker Andrew King had a good day with seven tackles. Junior defensive back Xavier Moss and Sophomore linebacker Jeremy Timpf each had six.  Brandon Jackson made his third interception of the year.

In Piscataway, Senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong was 14 of 21 for 188 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions to lead the Cornhuskers by the Scarlet Knights 31-14. 

On the day, the Cornhuskers gained 362 yards of total offense.  The surprise of the day was how Nebraska throttled the Rutgers offense.  The Scarlet Knights gained 259 yards, but Rutgers’ scores were the results of very short fields created by the Armstrong interceptions.

Sophomore Quarterback Chris Laviano was 13 of 27 for 165 yards and two interceptions.  Senior receiver Leonte Caroo and junior receiver Janarion Grant each caught four passes.

Who is favored?

Rutgers is favored by 4.5 points

What to look for?

Rutgers is 3-7.  They average 363.5 (159.9 rushing and 203.6 passing) yards and 25 points per game.  This offense however has faced Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.  In their games against lesser defenses, they have averaged over 45 points per game.

Army is 2-8.  The Cadet Defense gives up 383.6 yards per game and 28.2 points.  The cross team performances look consistent until you consider the competition – the best team that Army has played is the Duke Blue Devils (6-3).  They did have one common opponent, Penn State, and Army actually played them better than Rutgers.

Army is averaging 331.3 yards (253.3 rushing and 78 passing) and 22.7 points per game.  The Rutgers Defense yields 448.7 yards per game (157.1 rushing and 291.6 passing).

It looks to be a beautiful fall day at Michie, with no hopes of a snow storm to serve as an equalizer.  Undoubtedly Rutgers will enter the game unmotivated and lackadaisical.  Rutgers has not seen the triple option this year and it is doubtful that they will spend more than a day preparing for it.  Having said that, Rutgers is bigger and faster than Army and it will be difficult for Army to stop the Scarlet Knight offense.  Army has not been able to apply any sort of pressure on the quarterback aside from blitzing two additional rushers.  Expect Laviano to have a very big day.  We would anticipate a few long plays on passes over the middle and a consistent ground game.  Rutgers should easily gain over 500 yards.

Army’s only hope in this game would be to control the ball and score every possession.  While they will win the time of possession, holding penalties, chop blocks and turnovers will eventually take them out of this game.  A clean game by the Army offense is not something to expect when the offensive line is outweighed by an average of 60 lbs. per player.

Army has kept most of the games close this year, let’s hope that they can rally and take advantage of a sleep walking Scarlet Knight team.  Certainly don’t bet on it.

Final Score – Rutgers 45 - Army 21 (predictions in 2015, 4-5-1)

Game will be shown on CBSSTV @ 12:00 PM EST.


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