The Army Black Knights (2-0) will meet the UTEP Miners (1-1) at Sun Bowl stadium in El Paso this Saturday. It is a long trip to the desert southwest for the Black Knights, with UTEP looking to create a special occasion giving the importance of Fort Bliss to the city. Within that though there is a football game to be played, with Army looking to start 3-0 for the first time since 1996.
ARMY PASSING OFFENSE
UTEP PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Through two games in 2016 no passing game has been no problem for the Black Knights. Army averages just 40.5 passing yards per game, with starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw accounting for just 66 of those yards. Army is just not going to pass the ball much when Bradshaw is in the game, but the Black Knights do have a legitimate receiver in Edgar Poe who can make things happen in the passing game. If Army is going to pass the ball just five or six times a game, it would be good to see a couple of those passes go for bigger gains than we have seen so far this season.
ARMY RUSHING OFFENSE
UTEP RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The rushing attack, on the other hand, is firing on all cylinders early in the season. Army is fourth in the country in rushing yards per game (338.5) one spot ahead of Navy and behind only Air Force, Georgia Southern, and Louisville. Army also leads the country in time of possession as they Black Knights hold the ball for 38 minutes per game. Andy Davidson, he of converted linebacker fame, has been outstanding through two games. Davidson has been tackled behind the line of scrimmage just once on 45 carries, a vital stat for an option fullback. Army will control the ball against an undersized UTEP defense.
UTEP PASSING OFFENSE
ARMY PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The UTEP passing offense was entirely missing in their 41-7 loss to Texas last week under backup quarterback Kavika Johnson. That is why the Miners are wrapping starter Zach Greenlee in duct tape and pushing him out on the field to face Army. Greenlee has a knee injury of the type that normally keeps quarterbacks out for weeks (if not months) but he is expected to tape it up and "give it a whirl" according to head coach Sean Kugler. Greenlee also has a slight shoulder separation AND a broken finger on his throwing hand. He is clearly a tough guy, but he won't be close to 100% against an aggressive Army pass defense.
UTEP RUSHING OFFENSE
ARMY RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: The Miners have a legitimate star in their backfield in running back Aaron Jones. Jones has rushed for 372 yards and three touchdowns on 49 carries so far this season. That is four more rushes than Andy Davidson and just under 150 yards more than the Army power back. Army though has been excellent against the run through two games, allowing just 87.5 yards per contest on the ground. Jones will have his yards, but it is important Army doesn't let the talented back beat them.
REMARKS: Being 'even' here is not a particularly good thing. Basically, neither unit has been particularly good, so they are lumped together at this point. Army has the talent in the return game to make something happen and maybe as the unit has been dormant for so long it is time for a big return of some sort in this game.
REMARKS: The coaches at both Army and UTEP are working to build a consistent winning culture at programs that are not used to that. Jeff Monken at Army was seen by some as being on the hot seat entering the season but wins over Temple and Rice mean he has equaled the win total from 2015 just two games into the season. Monken has to keep managing his quarterbacks correctly and if he is able to find the right blend, and if Army continues to play mistake free football (the sign of a well-coached team) then the Black knights can have an unexpectedly successful year. Out coaching Kugler and the Miners would out Army halfway to bowl eligibility by the middle of September.
REMARKS: Army will be playing in this one for starting cornerback Brandon Jackson who died in a single car collision last weekend. How a player reacts to an event like this is very much an individual thing on a personal level, but as a team, it is important the Black Knights work together and lift each other to honor their fallen comrade.
PREDICTION: Army 31, UTEP 21.The Army offense is hot and it is hard to see how UTEP will have improved enough to stop the attack in such a short space of time. Monken knows that Army is starting a three-game road swing and that it will be vital for the Black Knights to pick up a win in the first of those games.