I think that Army will be disappointed with the result against Ohio State. This was a game that was close for far longer than the 38-7 scoreline would tend to suggest. While no one was expecting the Black Knights to defeat the Buckeyes, it would have been nice for Army to have kept this to a two or three score game. It is back to business this weekend, however, as the Black Knights cannot let the result from last week carry over to a winnable clash with Tulane.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Army was not the only one of these two teams to take on a top-tier opponent last weekend. While Army fell to Ohio State, Tulane was busy getting its doors blown off by Oklahoma (56-14). Tulane, like Army, started well against a much better team, before fading late and losing the contest by a big margin.
The Green Wave though was able to move the ball against the Sooners early. Tulane compiled 117 yards rushing in the first quarter, using their inside zone read to great effect against a team potentially destined for the College Football Playoff. Army needs to match Tulane if the Green Wave starts that quickly again, playing with their own energy and tempo that can be hard to rekindle a week after losing to a much better side.
Backups have to step up
Scheduling Ohio State is good for Army. It is a game that the fans can look forward to all year and it gave the Black Knight’s players a chance to challenge themselves against the very best in the country. There are some players on the Army team who would once have had their own dreams to play at Ohio State, so scheduling a big game like this every year is important.
It does, however, come with some costs.
The Black Knights lost senior safety Rhyan England, junior left tackle Rick Kurtz, and junior tight end Zach Saum during the Buckeyes game with injuries. When you play a team like Ohio State the physicality and speed increases and it is not uncommon to see players getting hurt. Army will have some different players in key spots this weekend that will need to step up and be counted if the Black Knights are to win.
Run the option efficiently
It is rare that Army plays a team – other than the other service academies – that has recent triple-option defense experience. That though is what the Black Knights will face on Saturday against Tulane.
The Green Wave have been a thorn in the side of Navy in the ACC over the last couple of years as their defense seems to be able to stop the option ground game better than any other team in the league. On Sept. 9, the Green Wave was narrowly defeated (23-21) by Navy, but they again kept the rushing attack in check. Army runs a different version of the offense, but Willie Fritz and his staff have shown the ability to slow the option and make its key parts less effective.