The 2-2 Army Black Knights almost pulled off a shock for the ages in Norman against Oklahoma. In pushing the Sooners to overtime and an eventual seven-point win, the Black Knights sent a message to all those that think the triple-option has had its day. Next up is a trip to Buffalo to face a Bulls team that is way better than you think.
Here are the three keys:
Sack the quarterback
There is exactly one team remaining the FBS in 2018 that has not allowed a single quarterback sack. Obviously – given the content of this article – that team is Buffalo.
The Bulls have been remarkably good in all phases so far this season, but it has been the protection offered to quarterbacks Tyree Jackson and Kyle Vantrease that has really stood out. Admittedly it is harder to bring down a vending machine than it is to sack the mobile and athletic 6-foot-7 frame of Jackson, but the Bulls offensive line has been playing at a level that few expected coming into the season.
The Bulls boast a mature, experienced, and disciplined set of offensive linemen, but if Army is to upset Buffalo then the Black Knights defensive front must find a way to get to the quarterback.
Get past the Oklahoma hangover
There are two ways that the close lose against Oklahoma can effect this team going forwards. The disaster scenario is that the players, devastated by the loss to a top 10 team, perform badly in practice this week and arrive in Buffalo to put on a listless performance with no energy. The preferred scenario is that the players are boosted by playing so well against a great team that they come out of the defeat buzzing and ready to take on Buffalo.
There is such rapid turnaround in the modern college game that either of those scenarios could realistically play out. It is easy to see Army coming out sluggish for the first couple of series as the team tries to get emotionally balanced after the Norman defeat, but that hangover has to be wiped out by the end of the first quarter.
This Buffalo team can score points in a hurry and the Black Knights simply must be switched on to avoid being run out of the building by halftime.
Control the ball and the clock
Army executed this part of the game plan to perfection against Oklahoma. The Black Knights ran 83 total plays in regulation compared to just 38 for the Sooners. Army also held the ball for 44:51, a number that doesn’t even seem like it would be possible to achieve.
The result was the Sooners linebacker Kenneth Murray made an astonishing 28 tackles, the most in a game in Oklahoma history and the most by any FBS player since at least 2000. That is exactly how Army needs to approach this game against Buffalo.
The Bulls might not have the name recognition of Oklahoma, but they have scored at least 35 points in each of their four win in their perfect start to the season. Army wins this game by running the ball down the throat of the Buffalo defense and by denying their potent offense the chance to score points.