Army and North Texas meet on Saturday for the third time in 13 months, making this a rivalry that is starting to feel more familiar to the Black Knights than their clash with Navy. It is a battle of squads headed to bowl games as the 8-2 Black Knights look to invade Denton and take down the 7-3 Mean Green.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Find enough wrinkles in the offense
Army has not played against the same team three times in such a short space of time in the modern era. That makes this contest against North Texas a unique one, because the Mean Green have already studied the Black Knights rushing patterns and tendencies in depth in recent times. The triple=option is at its most effective when it is used against a fresh opponent that doesn’t know what is coming, but that is not a luxury that Army will be afforded this weekend.
In order to make the offense work, Army will have to hit North Texas with plays and formations that the Mean Green has not seen before. This doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that Army comes out passing with Ahmad Bradshaw, but it does mean that Jeff Monken will have to dig deep into his playbook to open running lanes against a prepared defense.
Run at five yards per carry
Rushing the ball at five yards per carry seems like a high benchmark, but that is what Bradshaw and the Black Knights three primary running backs have averaged in 2017. When the triple-option is humming along – as it has done for large chunks of this season – the ball carriers are gaining three and four yards on an average running play, before breaking a big one for 20+ yards.
It is a simple formula, but one that Monken has perfected and that makes Army a horrible matchup. The defense knows what type of play is coming, but the combination of formation, motion, and multiple choices on a play, make the Army rushing attack so feared. The Mean Green though has had success stopping – or at least containing – the option. Army needs to make sure that the blocking discipline is on point on Saturday.
Defense must continue to play lights out
Last time out against Duke the Black Knights won in a way that we have not seen all that often over the last decade. The offense did work through the first half of the game, then it stalled out with Monken coaching an ultra-conservative game. He was able to do this because the Army defense was playing at a high level, stopping everything the Blue Devils tried on the ground and through the air.
Duke gained only 253 total yards and had a couple of turnovers. That is how Army won the game despite only creating 268 yards of total offense. The Mean Green will not be an easy out however as they have won three straight and put 45 points up on UTEP last weekend. If the Army defense can continue its high level of play and shut down another opponent then there is no reason the Black Knights shouldn’t move to nine wins on the season.