The Army Black Knights (3-2) should be playing in much better weather this Saturday as they return to West Point to take on the Lafayette Leopards (1-5). As you can probably tell by their record, the Leopards are far from the best team in the FCS, but Army needs to look back only 12 months to see what can happen if you take a team from a division lower too lightly.
Here are the three keys to Army beating the Leopards and not tripping over themselves as happened in the Fordham game last season:
1) Play to the strength of the offense
Passing has not been Army's friend over the last couple of weeks. In admittedly atrocious conditions in Durham, Ahmad Bradshaw was 2-of-8 through the air for just 38 yards and an interception. Thankfully the way the Leopards defense the run, the Black Knights might not have to pass at all on Saturday.
Last time out against Fordham, Lafayette allowed an astonishing 516 rushing yards to the Rams (and Chase Edmons in particular). Fordham had 709 yards of offense in total, but it was the Leopards complete inability to stop the run that will have the Army offensive staff salivating at this game. Edmonds actually went for over 21 yards per carry on his way to a new Patriot League rushing record, so Army should be playing smash mouth, option football att game long.
2) Be better on third down
Army was very non-Army like in down and distance last week against Duke. While Andy Davidson rolled for over 100 yards rushing, the rest of the option just could not get going on a consistent basis. That is how the Black Knights found themselves going 2-of-13 on third down for the game. The down and distance was seemingly never in Army's favor.
Duke has made something of a habit of shutting option teams down, while Lafayette is just not at that level. In this game we need to see the option working, giving Army a number of third and short opportunities that Davidson, Bradshaw, and the rest of the attack can convert to keep drives going.
3) Win the turnover battle
The only way Lafayette sticks around in this one is if Army lets them. That is why the Black Knights MUST protect the ball on offense and be opportunistic on defense. It looks like Blake Searfoss is going to be starting again at quarterback, and while he threw for 325 yards against Fordham he also threw a couple of interceptions. This is the sort of game that Army needs to put away quickly if the Black Knights are half the team we think they are, so ball security in the first half especially will be massively important.