Preview: Rutgers-Army

Rutgers (5-5, 4-2 Big East), a team that was 4 games under .500 six weeks ago, is looking to become bowl eligible when Army (3-7) visits Rutgers Stadium on Saturday. The Knights are looking to extend their winning streak to 5 games while the Black Knights of the Hudson are looking for their first win against RU since '97. Let's look at this matchup of a rivalry that has been played in 3 centuries.

TIME/TV

Kickoff is slated for noon Eastern Time at Rutgers Stadium, and the game will be broadcast in the New Jersey area on SNY as part of the Big East Game of the Week package. John Gleason and John Congemi will handle play-by-play duties and Quint Kessenich is scheduled to be the sideline reporter.


SCOUTING ARMY

The Black Knights of the Hudson are struggling again this year, but they appear to be better than their 3-7 record indicates. The problem is Army seems to get in deep holes and comes rushing back in the second half, often ending up on the short end of the scoreboard.

The most stinging loss for the Knights had to be a 27-24 overtime defeat at Buffalo Oct. 18. Army entered the contest on a two-game winning streak and appeared to be turning its season around when it led by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter. However, Buffalo scored twice in the fourth to force overtime and tacked on a field goal to turn away the Black Knights.

The Knights won at home against Louisiana Tech the following week but have dropped their last two contests including a 38-31 decision at Rice Nov. 8 in which they failed in their attempt to erase a 21-point second-half deficit.

OFFENSE

Army returned to an option offense this year, but it has not yielded results in the won-loss column. However, the Black Knights are coming off their best offensive output of the season after rushing for 461 yards against Rice and compiling 489 total yards of offense.

Collin Mooney is the 11th leading rusher in the nation with 117.3 yards per game. He has gone over 200 yards twice this year, including 207 yards and two touchdowns in the loss at Rice. While Army is seventh in the country in rushing offense (257.8 yards per game), the Black Knights are 112th in scoring offense (121.1 points per game).

Why the disparity? Turnovers. Army has coughed the ball up in key situations, losing 21 fumbles and five interceptions, including three lost fumbles against Rice. The Black Knights are minus 12 in turnover margin this year, and opponents have turned that into an 85-42 scoring advantage.

That's not good news for an Army offense that faces a Rutgers defense playing stifling football. The Scarlet Knights have forced 10 turnovers the last three games and have limited the opposition to an average of 115.7 yards per game. RU held South Florida to just 76 yards on the ground Nov. 15.


DEFENSE

Stan Brock's team has performed well on defense this season despite some tough results on the scoreboard. Army is allowing 312.3 total yards per game and is ranked 34th nationally in total rushing offense with 121.1 yards per game. Army has held three teams to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. However, the Black Knights allowed Rice to roll up 517 total yards on Nov. 8, including 384 through the air.

The scoring defense allowed an average of 15 points per game in October and held Air Force to 16 points before allowing 38 to Rice. The Owls represented the best passing team Army has faced this year, which could bode well for suddenly passing-oriented Rutgers.


SPECIAL TEAMS

Place-kicker Matthew Campbell, who went two games without trying a field goal before going 1-for-2 against Rice, is 7-for-9 on field goal attempts this year and 1-for-3 on tries of at least 40 yards. Punter Andrew Rinehart averages 39.3 yards per punt and has landed 18 of his 49 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Army has blocked three kicks this year, including two field goal attempts, in wins against Tulane and Eastern Michigan.

HEAD TO HEAD

Army holds an 18-16 advantage all-time in a series that dates back to 1891, but the Scarlet Knights have won the last four meetings and eight of the last 10. Rutgers' longest winning streak in the series is five games while Army's longest is 11. This is only the sixth meeting between the schools at Rutgers Stadium and the third since it was renovated in 1994.

Last season was the first time the teams met since 2003, and Rutgers cruised to a 41-6 victory at West Point behind 404 yards rushing.


TRENDS/NOTES

This is the second of three straight games away from home for Army, which finishes the season against Navy at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Dec. 6. . . . All three service academies have won games this year without completing a pass. Air Force accomplished the feat in a 31-28 win at Houston Sept. 13. Army matched it with a 17-13 win against Eastern Michigan Oct. 11. Navy topped both academies by becoming the first major school in 11 years not to attempt a pass during a 34-7 win against Southern Methodist Oct. 25. . . . The last time Army beat a Big East opponent was when the Black Knights defeated Rutgers 37-35 at Michie Stadium in 1997, a game where Rutgers freshman quarterback Mike McMahon came off the bench to lead a furious rally that fell short for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers went on to finish 0-11 that year.

Rutgers is on a four-game winning streak for the first time since winning four games in a row from 2006-07 (The 2006 Texas Bowl followed by a 3-0 start in '07). The Scarlet Knights have not won five straight since getting out to a 9-0 start in 2006. . . . A Scarlet Knight has won Big East Offensive Player of the Week honors for three straight weeks RU has played. Quarterback Mike Teel won it after the Pittsburgh win Oct. 25, running back Kordell Young got the honor after the victory against Syracuse Nov. 11, and wide receiver Kenny Britt was the recipient this week. . . . . Rutgers has outscored Army 121-27 in three games under head coach Greg Schiano. . . . This is the third time in Schiano's tenure that Rutgers is facing Army and Navy in the same year. The Scarlet Knights, who lost 23-21 at Navy on Sept. 20, swept the teams the previous two seasons (2003 and 2007). It is the seventh time overall since 1992 that RU has met both teams in the same season. In 1992 and 1998 Rutgers swept the academies, and in 1996 and 1997 Army and Navy swept RU.

WEATHER

The National Weather Service is calling for cold and breezy conditions on Saturday following the possibility of snow showers on Friday.


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