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THREE KEYS: ARMY VS. UTEP

It feels like Army should be better than 2-2 at this point in the season. The loss to Ohio State was an obvious one that many (everyone) predicted, while the game against Tulane was always going to be more difficult than it appeared when glancing at the schedule. The plus side is that Army now gets a very winnable home game to kick start its season against UTEP.

Here are the three keys to this one:

Be prepared for a team with nothing to lose

UTEP is not a good football team this season. The Miners are 0-4 and their closest loss to date was a 31-14 game at home to Rice. Their other three opponents have scored 56, 63, and 41 points in their wins. In addition, this marks the first of seven games left on the schedule where UTEP faces teams with bowl rings from last year. The offense hasn’t got going, the defense can’t stop anyone, and the special teams are a mess. That sums up this UTEP team.

There is a thing though about playing a team – and a coach – that has nothing to lose at this point in the season. Expect UTEP to go for it on fourth down at strange times. Expect to see a trick play or two out of nowhere that the Black Knights haven’t prepared for. If Army expects the unexpected on any given play then they will be able to win this game.

Put pressure on the passing game

If UTEP is to spring a surprise on Army then they will try to do it by scoring through the air. The problem is that the Miners’ passing game has been bad, especially when the components of that phase of the game are put under pressure. Ryan Metz is likely to lead the team at quarterback. Metz has been putting the ball up and his receivers have been failing to make plays. It is stunning that the top four pass catchers that Metz likes to target all have catch rates of less than 54-percent on the season.

Consider this stat from last Saturday. No UTEP wide receiver caught more than two of the 18 passes that Metz put in the air for them to go and grab. His leading receiver had just two receptions. He did have three completions to one player, however, and that was NMSU defensive back Shad Lomax. Lomax’s three picks of Metz were equal to half of his actual completions on the day.

Run the ball

This isn’t a game where Army should even consider passing the ball. The running game is going to overwhelm UTEP and the Black Knights will be out of sight by halftime as long as they don’t kill themselves with penalties and turnovers. The Army run game has a power success rate that sits at 12th nationally. That power game will be going up against a UTEP front seven that allows success against the power rush almost 85-percent of the time. This is not a good situation for UTEP to be in.

It should be a game where Ahmad Bradshaw can get back on track after an off day (by his standards) against Tulane. The Black Knights should also be able to run their fullbacks through the line at will, so look for big games from Andy Davidson and Darnell Woolfolk, who are too big and too strong for the Miners’ defenders to handle.

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