Ten things to look for: Army vs. Notre Dame

Army travels to South Bend, Ind. to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday. Here are ten things for Army fans to watch for during the game.

1. Can Army break the streak: Notre Dame has won 12 games in a row against the Black Knights. Army hasn't beaten the Fighting Irish since 1958 when Pete Dawkins roamed the backfield. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 36-8-4.

2. Turnover time: If Army turns the ball over once against Notre Dame it could be toast. As we all know, that's been a problem for the Black Knights this season. Army has 32 turnovers this fall, a year after coughing up the ball just 20 times. The low point of Turnover Fest came when the Black Knights had six turnovers in a 43-7 loss to Air Force on Nov. 3. Let's hope the bye week allowed Army to focus on turnovers.

3. Can Army stop Brady Quinn: Check that. Can Army or anyone contain the Heisman Trophy candidate.

Quinn, a senior, has completed 230-of-357 passes (64.4 percent) for 29 touchdowns and four interceptions.

4. Speaking of quarterbacks: Army has no chance if its quarterback play doesn't improve. Freshman Carson Williams and junior David Pevoto could split time in South Bend. So the question remains: How will they respond to over 80,000 fans on Senior Day.

Williams is still regarded as a cool customer, despite the Air Force debacle (four interceptions). But Army fans may cringe every time Pevoto (13 interceptions) throws a pass.

Here's hoping both Williams and Pevoto have the games of their lives.

5. Hold the toast, burnt, that is: What makes Quinn even better is his two wide receivers, Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija and McKnight have each caught 55 passes. McKnight has 726 yards and 12 touchdowns and Samardzija adds 792 yards and nine touchdowns.

If the pair can't be contained someone in Army's secondary, most likely defensive back Sean Grevious and John Laird, could get burnt.

6. Can Army avoid the knockout blow: It could come from hard-hitting Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski.

He's one of the best in the nation and, as far as the knockout, he could deal one out. Zbikowski is an aspiring pro boxer and one his first heavyweight fight this summer. He also returns punts for the Fighting Irish. Zbikowski has 61 tackles this year.

7. Where's the pass rush: The Black Knights have struggled rushing the passer all season. That might have worked against Kent State, but it will be Army's undoing against Notre Dame. Quinn is lethal when rushed in the pocket. Imagine if he can sit back with time.

There is good news: Starting Army defensive ends Cameron Craig and Brandon Thompson are healthy again and starting.

8. Control the clock: Ball control, ball control, ball control. That's the only way Army can keep the game close.

Enter sophomore running back Wesley McMahand. He has to have the game of his life and keep Notre Dame off the field. Let's not forget we need strong efforts from Tony Moore and fullback Mike Viti.

9. Speaking of the run: Notre Dame opens things up with, of course, Quinn and running back Darius Walker.

Walker has rushed for 921 yards and five touchdowns for a 4.7 average. He can catch, too, putting up 48 receptions and 336 receiving yards. If Army stuffs Walker, the Black Knights could be on to something.

10. Can Army keep it close: Notre Dame isn't, say, Baylor. If Army falls behind 17-3, it will quickly be 24-3, 31-3 etc.

The Black Knights have to stay close early to make it a game and dave themselves from a demoralizing blowout. So let's hope Army scores early, catches a break, maybe forces a turnover. Then......you never know. It's been a tough season. Proud Army fans need something to cheer about Saturday. Let's hope they do.


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