Key Matchups: Army vs. Hawaii

CHEERLEADERS

The third game of the year matches Army West Point Black Knights (1-1,Sagarin 68) and the Hawaii Warriors (3-0, Sagarin 100).  This is the fourth meeting between these teams, with the Warriors winning all three previous contests, however this will be the first time that Army has been favored going into the game. 

The Army newcomers appear to be settling in as the team needs to maintain their confidence headed to Oklahoma.  Hawaii is a phoenix, rising from the ashes.  They have won three games already and could possibly be bowl eligible by October with their Heisman candidate Cole McDonald.

Last week

At Michie

 Army held the ball for 41:30, ran for 449 yards and breezed past the Liberty Flames 38-14.

This was a very interesting game for the cadets as they seemingly dominated the game, but illegal block penalties called back one touchdown and killed another drive; the Flames defense did stop Army three times.  A very interesting point of the game occurred towards the end of the third quarter.  Liberty was trailing 24-14 and they faced a fourth and 13 from the Army 44.  Coach Turner Gill elected to punt, which turned into a touchback.  Army scored two plays later and what was a close game, became a comfortable win for the Black Knights.

Army dominated the game and the offensive line started to gel.  A new rule, which penalizes a cut block from the side, thwarted a couple Army drives and allowed the Flames to stay in the game.  Army ran 82 plays, 74 of which were runs.  Army averaged 6.1 yards per rush.  Darnell Woolfolk lead the team with 98 yards and two touchdowns on 17 attempts.  Fred Cooper has emerged as the leading slot back, had 81 yards on 10 carries.  Calen Holt and Connor Slomka had 72 and 71 yards respectively, each with a touchdown.  Andy Davison only had four carries for 18 yards.   Kelvin Hopkins did a good job distributing the ball.  He was only 2/7, but one of those was a 44-yard touchdown pass to Christian Hayes.  There were three balls that were horribly thrown, several feet short of the receiver.  Army punted on the possessions where there was an incomplete pass.

The Liberty Offense gained a lot of yardage, but penalties and turn overs hampered their effectiveness.  Stephen Calvert was 19/37 for 307 yards for two touchdowns and an interception.  We warned that Damian King would be a factor and he had eight receptions for 172 yards and a long touchdown (66 yards).  Elijah Riley had a tremendous game, playing strong side corner back.  He was so effective, that Liberty began to line up King on the short side to avoid him.  It has been a while, if ever, that I have seen an opposing offense react to an Army cornerback that way.  James Nachtigal lead the team with seven tackles. James Gibson and Raymond Wright each had sacks.  The highlight of the game came in the second quarter, Army stuffed a fourth and one, when Nachtigal stood up in the middle of the defensive line and stopped Peytton Picket inches shy of the first down.

It has been two weeks, we really don’t know how good Liberty is, but we do know that Duke is a good football team.  Giving up 417 total yards is not dominating, but Army may prove to be one of the better defenses that Liberty will face this year.

In Honolulu

The Warriors gained 481 total yards as Hawaii beat Rice 43-29.  Cole McDonald threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Cedric Byrd, to help Hawaii beat Rice 43-29 on Saturday night and improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2007.  Fred Holly III had 17 carries for 100 yards and two scores and John Ursua had nine receptions for 133 yards and a TD.

The Warriors gave up 446 total yards including 147 on the ground (3.8 yards per carry).  Rice gained 397 yards on the Prairie View Panthers and 439 on the Houston Cougars.

Hawaii has been able to jump out to big leads this season and this game was no exception.  Hawaii was winning 21-7 half way through the first quarter.  Rice had closed the gap to seven points with 1:48 remaining in the game.  They did not recover the on-side attempt and Fred Holly III carried the ball 46 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing play to close out the game.  This was fairly close game.

Who is favored?

Army is favored by 6 points

What to look for?

Cole McDonald has already passed for 1,165 yards, 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.  Certainly, if he keeps this up, he will be considered for the Heisman trophy.  Hawaii has been able to jump to big leads in their first three games:

  • 37-7 @ Colorado State
  • 38-14 vs Navy
  • 21-7 vs Rice

Hawaii, under Nick Rolovich, is back to the run and shoot and it has worked very well.  It has taken teams nearly a half to adjust to the speed of their offense.  Additionally, on offense, teams have tried to work the perimeter to start the games against Hawaii, and the safeties and corners have crashed the plays.  Once their opponents settled in and hit the middle and passed over the safeties, they began to move the ball with ease.

The Warrior Defense has given up 196.3 yards per game and an average of 5.2 yards per rush.  Conversely, they are averaging 540 yards passing per game and 68 offensive plays.  Their two main receivers are Cedric Byrd and John Ursua.  Both are under 6’0 and 180 lbs.

The Black Knights are gaining 308 yards per game rushing and averaging 5.1 yards per rush.  The Army defense is giving up 147 yards on the ground and 252 through the air.

This looks a lot like the Liberty game last week, however this offense is better.  They are faster and McDonald has a better arm.  He has only been sacked five times and three were by Navy.  There should be some big takeaways from the Hawaii/Navy game.

  1. Pound the middle early – Hawaii will bring their entire team to shut down the pitch. Army is big enough to move the ball on anyone and they should be targeted on long, sustained drives with runs between the hashes.  The perimeter and pass will open up, but initially they need to hit the Warriors where they are weakest.
  2. Pressure McDonald – do not rush three or four and allow him to pick the defense apart, because he will. Bateman is really good at this and he will be ready.  Also, Elija Riley should be able to match up against Byrd effectively.

Kick-off is scheduled for 12:00 PM EDT, which is 6:00 AM HST.  Hawaii will arrive on Thursday to New York City.  They will have two days to get acclimated to playing first thing in the morning.  No matter how early they try to go to bed on Friday, they will be waking up at 2:00 AM HST.  This could be a huge advantage for Army as Hawaii has used fast starts to win their first three games.

Army will have to play well to win.  Turn overs and 100 yards in penalties will most likely result in a loss.  A clean game, where the offensive line dominates, and Army holds the ball for 40 minutes, Army will win by 14 or more.  I would expect something in the middle.  I expect Army to play their best game of the year and because of travel and time, I would expect Hawaii to play their worst.

Final Score – Army 42 – Hawaii 34 (predictions in 2018, 1-1)

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

 

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