Key Matchups: Army vs. Liberty

The second game of the year matches two FBS Independents the Army West Point Black Knights (0-1,Sagarin 76) and the Liberty Flames (1-0, Sagarin 140).  This is the first meeting between the schools.  What looked like an easy win on the calendar a week ago, may turn out to be a little different.

Last week

In Durham, NC

Army fumbled five times, turned it over twice, missed two field goals, missed many tackles and was penalized seven times for 69 yards, giving a good Duke team far too much in a 34-14 Loss.

The Army offense started poorly.  Darnell Woolfolk who did not fumble all last season, fumbled on their opening drive.  Army had a chance to tie with a 33 yard field goal on their second drive but missed wide right on their second drive.  Kell Walker, on their third drive, tossed a bad pitch from the wildcat set while being hit, which resulted in a turn-over at the Duke 30 and Army trailed 17-0 at the half.  Army played evenly in the second half.  They closed the gap to 17-7 after forcing a fumble with a safety blitz.  On the ensuing drive they stalled their momentum with a personal foul, giving Duke too many chances and Army could not catch up.

Duke gained 381 total yards.  Quarterback Daniel Jones was 13/17 for 197 yards.  Brittain Brown lead the Blue Devil rushing attack and gained 75 yards on 11 carries.  The Army defense did not look sharp and tackled poorly.  The only pressure they brought on Jones is when they brought six.

Army gained 365 yards, but only 168 on the ground.  Calen Holt lead the Black Knights with 54 yards on seven carries.  The Army fullbacks only carried the ball 15 times for 49 yards.  These numbers obviously dictate that the game did not go the way Coach Monken had planned.  The early fumble by Woofolk seemed to stymie their confidence against a very big, fast and disciplined Duke defense.  The real surprise of the night was Kelvin Hopkins’ passing ability.  He was 10/21 for 197 yards and a touchdown and was very effective when the Duke defense was not expecting a pass.  Camden Harrisson was the leading receiver with three receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown.  Kell Walker, Glen Coates and Jordan Ashberry showed great catching ability – there may be more talent there than anyone expects.  Elijah Riley lead the defense with seven tackles.  Jaylon McClinton and James Nachtigal both had six.

Overall it was a very disappointing game.  Army needed to play a perfect game to give themselves a chance to win.  Instead they made many mistakes, forced by a very good Duke team, and they ruined any chance they had to be competitive.

In Lynchburg, VA

Stephen Calvert threw for 345 yards (25/36) and four touchdowns and Liberty earned its first win as an FBS program with a 52-10 victory over Old Dominion in the season opener for both teams Saturday.  Kentory Matthews rushed 17 times for 101 yards and Peytton Picket had 87 yards on 10 carries.  Liberty featured a no huddle offense that keeps the defense honest with draws and delays.  The Flames gained 595 yards versus 301 for Old Dominion.

In a game that was 14-10 at the half, the Flames trounced the Monarchs in the second half, scoring on all but the first possession.  The Monarch had 14 possessions in the game

Who is favored?

Army is favored by 9.5 points

What to look for?

This will be a great test for the Army defense.  Liberty runs a fast paced no-huddle passing offense that can score quickly. Quarterback Stephen Calvert is not mobile, lines up in the shotgun and gets rid of the ball quickly and is not afraid to throw deep. Antonio Gandy-Golden is a tall DJ Stubbs receiver who Calvert targets in the end zone and DJ Stubbs is very fast and elusive.  This is a team overflowing with confidence.  They look a lot like the Tulane and North Texas teams that Army faced last year in close losses.

Army will have to run the ball, dominate the clock and limit the Flame possessions to win this game.  While Old Dominion was not a good team last year, they did win five games, including Rice, and were competitive in games against Western Kentucky and North Texas.

If Army can generate a pass rush with four linemen, they should be able to contain Calvert with a zone defense and safety help.  If they need to send safeties on blitz packages, Calvert will most likely eat them alive.

Army will need to get on top early so that they are able to take some chances defensively and absorb some long scores from the Liberty offense.

I expect the Army offensive line to open up room for the fullbacks and they should have a very good day.  I expect more than 300 yards rushing and a few long passes for touchdowns, once Liberty starts puts nine defenders in the box.  I anticipate a long game with 12 possessions.

I do expect Liberty to rack up 300 yards in total offense.  There will be a few long completed passes, but there will also be some forced turn-overs.  Army will bounce back and gain some needed confidence.

Final Score – Army 42 – Liberty 21 (predictions in 2018, 0-1)

Game will be shown on CBSSN, Saturday @ 12:00 PM EDT.

 

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