Key Matchups: Army vs. Eastern Michigan

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The eighth game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (5-2,Sagarin 46) and the Mid-American Conference West Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-4,2-3, Sagarin 82).  Army leads the all-time series seven games to one and has won the past three contests, with Army grounding the Eagles last year at Michie Stadium 28-27. 

The Eagles scored a touchdown with 0:49 remaining, went for the game winning two-point conversion and Mike Reynolds batted away the pass to preserve the Black Knight victory.  The Eagles have won two in a row and need to win two more for bowl eligibility.  The Black Knights have won three in a row and five of six games.  They nearly lost a nail biter at home last weekend.  This will be their final road game of the regular season.

Last Week

At Michie Stadium

Elija Riley tackled Kenny Young at the two-yard line on a broken play two-point conversion attempt in over-time to preserve the Army win 31-30 and maintain the home win streak at ten.

The Black Knights were favored by 12 points in the opening line and the point spread was quickly reduced to 7.5.  We had no idea why, until Kelvin Hopkins walked on the field with sweatpants and no pads.  It appears that someone informed Las Vegas that Hopkins was going to be rested during the Miami Ohio game, but told no one else.

Sophomore Cam Thomas started his first game under center.  He performed well on a greatly reduced playbook.  He attempted a couple of throws, but the receivers were not open, and this offense took us back to the Stan Brock era.  All was going fine for the cadets until Darnell Woolfolk was stopped on a fourth and goal, three inches shy of the goal line, to end the first half.  Army had dominated the half and were only winning by seven points.

The RedHawks figured out the Army offense in the second half, but the Army defense held Miami on the first three possessions and went into “win preservation mode,” running straight into the line, trying to wind down the clock.  The RedHawks abandoned the run, removed the running back from the offense and Gus Ragland got hot.  The RedHawks scored on the final play of regulation, but a spike in the end-zone by the touchdown receiving Nate Baker prevented a two-point conversion and the game went to overtime.

Army rushed for 347 yards and held the ball for 36 minutes, however they turned over on downs or punted a total of five times, a season high.  Cam Thomas ran for 137 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.  Darnell Woolfolk had 96 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.  And Davidson had 39 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.  Kell Walker had 51 yards on 11 carries.  Brad Koenig, Redhawk linebacker had 23 tackles and was the largest option disruptor.  Army’s Cole Christiansen had 13 tackles and 3.5 for loss.

John Abercrombie hit a 37 yard field goal in the first overtime for his second field goal of the year.  He seems to be the only place kicker that has been able to handle the stress of the position in the past few years.

In Muncie, IN

The Eagles (4-4,2-3) gained 420 yards, caused two turn-overs and held the ball for 38 minutes as they soared over the Cardinals (3-5, 2-2).  Senior Quarterback Tyler Wiegers was 22-28 for 257 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another.  Shaq Vann was the leading carrier with 63 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Five other running backs had carries that amounted to 100 yards.

The Cardinals gained 227 yards on 32 carries, but that was significantly buoyed by a Will Jones 80 yard touchdown run.  Without that outlier, the Eagle defense still gave up an average of 4.8 yards per rush.

Who is favored?

Eastern Michigan is favored by 2 points.

What to look for?

Eastern Michigan has four losses at the hands of Buffalo, San Diego State, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.  Their wins have come against Monmouth, Purdue, Toledo and Ball State.  The point spread tells me that Hopkins will not start, even though Coach Monken felt positive about his start during the post game news conference.

The Eagles are led by Senior Quarterback Tyler Weigers, 6’4, 227 lbs.  Their other quarterback is Mike Glass, who has not played the last two games due to injury.  Wiegers is 107-162 for 1,268 yards and eight touchdowns and has thrown only one interception.  While Glass throws often, 52-85 for 780 yards and six touchdowns against one interception, he is more of a rusher with 402 yards on 58 carries.  Their leading rusher is Shaq Vann, who has run 478 yards on 114 carries (4.0 yards/rush average).  Overall, they average 405 yards per game, 260 passing/140 rushing and they run 56% of the time.  The Army defense averages: 60% completions, 229 yards passing per game, 105 yards rushing per game.

The Eagle Defense averages 408 yards per game, 186 passing and 220 rushing.  They also allow 5.2 yards per rush, but they average 24 points a game because they have stopped opponents 30% of the time in the red-zone; 17 touchdowns and 7 field goals on 35 possessions.   Army is averaging 405 yards offense, 86 passing/318 rushing.  The Eagles have seven turn-overs on the year, Army has four.

Army should win this game pounding the ball, eating clock and limiting the Cardinal’s possessions.  However, this predictable methodology is not so obvious if Hopkins does not start.  While Thomas is a capable back-up, he lacks the size to get the extra yard to pick up the first down that we have taken for granted with Bradshaw and Hopkins.  Without the ability to pass, the Eagles will load 10 in the box.  And with a limited playbook – can the Army offense move the ball?  Las Vegas insiders don’t think so.  While the Army defense is fantastic, I don’t think it realistic to think that they will limit the Eagles to three touchdowns on 10 possessions.  Army, with Thomas, will not be able to win in a shoot-out.

Of course, Offensive Coordinator Brent Davis knows this.  They have three practices to get Thomas comfortable with option reads and passes.  They also have senior quarterback Luke Langdon, who is bigger and a better passer.

What looked like a should win game earlier in the season, is now up for grabs.  I think that the Army staff will have the Black Knights ready.  The Eagles do not have a Brad Koenig and the option should plod its way down the field.  Monken will have the cadets fired up and they will be ready.

Final Score – Army 28 – Eastern Michigan 21 (predictions in 2018, 5-2)

This game will be shown on CBSSTV @ 12:00 PM EDT

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