Three Keys Navy vs. Army

On Saturday afternoon the focus of the college football world will be on Baltimore as Navy take on Army in the 115th meeting of the rival academies. The Mids have won the last twelve meetings between the schools and will be looking to make it thirteen in a row.

A win over Army would improve Navy's record to 7-5 before traveling to San Diego to play in the Poinsettia Bowl later this month. Here is a look at the three keys to victory in this most heated of rivalry clashes.

1) Win the rushing battle

Every time these two teams meet the biggest key to the game is who can be more effective running the ball. Both run versions of the same triple option offense where the ability to keep the chains moving while wearing down an opponent to break the big gain is key. So far this year Navy (357.8 yards per game) has been more effective than Army (305.5 yards per game) at this strategy, but in a rivalry game like this it would surprise no one if the Black Knights offense came out running the ball with a new purpose.

The key for Army running the option will be the play of the quarterbacks. With Keenan Reynolds just on a tear since getting back from his injuries, he has scored 15 touchdowns over the last five games, the combination of Angel Santiago and A.J. Schurr will have to play at their very best level to keep the Black Knights in the game. Navy will also look for a big game from senior fullback Noah Copeland, wearing down the defense inside. Don’t be at all shocked if Copeland breaks a big run in this game against an Army defensive front which is suspect at best against the run.

2) Win the turnover battle

For a team which puts such a high value on discipline and not making mistakes on the field, the Mids have been surprisingly bad in the turnover department this year. Navy ranks 90th out of 128 FBS schools with a turnover margin of -3 entering the last regular season game of the year. The Mids biggest problem by far has been with fumbles, both giving them away and not being able to recover them. Navy has lost 12 fumbles, while only recovering three themselves.

The good thing is that most of these fumble issues on offense were earlier in the year when Reynolds was playing through injuries and making strange decisions because of it. Over the last few games the Mids really seemed to have cleared up some of these problems and have looked a much more cohesive offensive unit in the process. Against Army, who are 53rd in the nation in turnover margin at +2, Navy will have to look to force more fumbles if they are extra possessions. This is because the Black Knights are the only team in the entire FBS who throw for fewer yards per game than the Mids, thus nullifying the chances for interceptions.

3) Play with the passion the game deserves

This is the game which aspiring football players come to Navy to play in. This season has been a mixed bag of frustration, disappointment, and an inevitability that a bowl game would eventually be reached. For sixty minutes though these players can forget all that and get out on the field in front of the most raucous crowd they will ever experience and give everything to uphold the pride of the Naval Academy. One of the reasons why Keenan Reynolds is so good is that he can play this game with the coolness and drive you need from the quarterback. On defense, however, the team needs to be assignment sound while attacking and destroying any Black Knight who is out there. Expect to see Navy come out fast and try to blow Army away in the first quarter. This one really matters.

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