The seventh game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 131, 3-3) and Mid American East Conference Temple Owls (Sagarin 96, 3-2). Army leads the all time series 4-2, however Temple won the last meeting, to start the 2008 season, 35-7. This is a huge game for Army. Army must win six games to become eligible for the Eagle Bank Bowl. Temple has the third lowest RPI of the remaining teams on the schedule – this is a game that they really could use.
9 out of 10 times Vanderbilt would have won that game, but an illegal pick on the last drive of the game from inside the 10-yard-line and a fumble into the end-zone in overtime gave Army and Alex Carlton the chance for redemption. A dramatic 42-yard, upright smacking kick – brought home the most improbable of victories; Army 16-Vanderbilt 13.
The Army defense performed well. Allowing 304 total yards and forcing 3 turnovers. They did not allow a touchdown and they did not tire until the last two drives of the game. Some may say that this is when the Commodores woke up and realized that they needed to score to avoid the upset. I did not like the way Army was unable to stop Vandy on their last drive and in over-time as they were being pushed off the line and unable to come up with a big stop. In over-time Army yearling defensive end Andrew Rodriguez barely beat Norman to the corner and hit him on the 1-yard-line after an inside handoff and Warren Norman fumbled, the ball rolled over the goal line and out of bounds through the end zone.
Army special teams performed well, but they did allow another touchdown as Norman was able to return a kickoff 76 yards for the Commodore touchdown. What set up that kick, however, was an unsportsmanlike call on right tackle Jason Johnson for taking off his helmet after the Trent Steelman touchdown - Johnson needs some area tours – that put Army in a tough position. Carlton was 3-3 including a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter. Jonathan Bulls had a very good day punting, averaging nearly 40 yards per punt.
The Army offense struggled, but they did come out passing with Steelman throwing 3 times on the first drive and 16 times in all. While the passes were not necessarily effective, they did keep the linebackers and cornerbacks off of the line of scrimmage, which did create some running lanes that allowed Army to hold the ball for 36 minutes (an opponents kick-return for a touchdown will help that number also). Ali Villanueva is the biggest target in college football, but he and Steelman do not seem to be able to connect in a game. It appears as though Villanueva does not have nearly enough speed to track down Steelman's weak and erratic throws. Damian Hunter is the go-to receiver – he hauled in 5 passes – although he still should not be confused with Jerry Rice. He showed little ability to create separation, and four of his catches were on wide receiver screens. Steelman was 7/16 for 47 yards and ran for 97. He showed a lot of heart on the Army touchdown, when he refused to be tackled and rolled out of a pile, into the end zone.
In Philadelphia, Bernard Peirce ran for 129 yards, and Temple forced 5 Ball State turnovers to beat the Cardinals 24-19. Temple limited Ball State to 57 yards rushing – earlier in the year Army yielded 121 on the ground to Ball State.
What we Learned
Army is learning to win. There are a few points in a game where a team needs to make a play, whether it be a sack, first down or field goal. Army tends to win games when the opponent can't make the play rather than Army forcing anything. However, this team is showing character and resilience and is beginning to resemble the '95 squad.
We learned that even if Army does not yield a lot of yards via the pass, they must as least try – it opens lanes and keeps the defense guessing. However they must be more effective through the air if they have any hopes of beating Temple, Rutgers, Air Force and Navy. This has everything to do with comfort and familiarity in the system and I think we will see this system evolve every week here forward.
Army did introduce a new play - the slot-back dive following the fullback. It will be interesting if we see this play, some misdirection and some reverses, complementing the run and throw option. This offense may actually get interesting in the future. Hopefully we won't have to wait for this offense to develop till the Oklahoma game in 2018! In the meanwhile, we are also learning that watching the Army offense may be the best substitute for over the counter sleep aids that exist. Right now, there is almost nothing more boring and sleep inducing than watching Army with the ball – about the only excitement the offense generates these days is when somebody fumbles.
In Philadelphia, we learned that Temple has a stout run defense. If you remove the results from the Penn State game, they only allow 66.5 yards per game on the ground. Their offense generates nearly 350 yard per game and they score nearly four touchdowns.
Who is favored?
Temple is favored by 9 points.
What to look for?
Trent Steelman will throw 20 times in this game Temple will stack the line and force Army to throw. If Villanueva and Steelman can get on the same page, it could be a huge day for them. If Army is not able to generate significant yards and two or three big plays through the air, they will probably not win.
Look for Temple to try to establish Bernard Peirce. If the Black Knights can eliminate him from the game, Temple will become one dimensional and the Cadets will have some chances to intercept the ball. Quarterback Vaughn Charlton may be the best quarterback that they have seen.
I see both teams having great difficulty scoring and this one will probably come down to a defensive score being the difference.
Final Score – Temple14 - Army 10 (predictions this year 2-4)
Ridge and the Dalia Lommer disagree on this prediction. Lommer feels that Temple will beat Army by 3 touchdowns…we just could not agree.
The game will be presented on Knight Vision and Channelsurfing.net @ 1:00 EST.