The Army Black Knights (1-0) caused a major shock last Friday night with its win over Temple on the road. The Black Knights now return to Michie Stadium and West Point looking for the schools first 2-0 start since Bill Clinton was President. Standing in the way is the Rice Owls (0-1) who need to get their own season back on track after an opening weekend loss.
Season so far
The Owls are on the road for the second successive week after opening their season in Bowling Green against Western Kentucky. It was one of those strange opening day games that for some reason is also a conference opener, and Western Kentucky took it to the Owls right out of the gate and never let up on their way to a 46-14 drubbing.
The Hilltoppers did most of their damage through the air as quarterback Mike White threw for 517 yards and three touchdowns while doing 25 for 31 on the day. Western Kentucky was just one yard shy of 650 yards of total offense, while Rice was only able to amass 288 yards of total offense in the defeat.
Injuries and Suspensions
The Owls lost a couple of players in and around the Western Kentucky game and both have serious injuries that will keep them out for the rest of the year. The Rice offense lost one of its building blocks when starting left guard Connor Patterson was ruled out for the rest of the season with a lower leg injury. The offensive line is not a spot to lose players so early as chemistry and timing that had been developed through spring practice and fall camp has now taken a huge blow.
The second big injury actually happened right before the Western Kentucky game when starting sophomore cornerback Justin Bickham went down. Bickham had broken out as a true freshman, leading the team with five PBU and also chipping in with 13 tackles. Bickham was ruled out for the season after going down with a torn ACL.
The big question for Army here is how does the team deal with success. Going into the season the game against Temple was generally written off as a loss, but there was a feeling that the clash with Rice would be one of those on the schedule the Black Knights could win. After upsetting the first set of Owls, however, Army now has a chance to win back to back contests for the first time in 70 games (almost five years) and the pressure on the team has increased. A win would set Army up in a brilliant position to push on and be competitive against the other service academies on the schedule. A loss, after gaining all that momentum and good feeling last week, would be devastating. Head coach Jeff Monken will have to get his player's minds in the right place on gameday to make the most of this opportunity.