The Army-Navy game has resulted in a loss for the Black Knights on 14 straight occasions. Army is looking to beat Navy for the first time since 2001 when the two teams meet in Baltimore on Saturday. Army almost broke the streak last year before falling 21-17 and given the way the Black Knights have played at times this season there is hope that this will finally be the year that Army sings last.
Here are the three keys to beating the Midshipmen:
1) Win the rushing battle
It is Army vs Navy. It is triple-option vs triple-option. It is strength vs strength. In the most simple terms, whichever team rushes the ball better will win this game.
One week ago this rushing matchup looked like it would roll in the favor of Navy. Then, on a single play against Temple. the Mids lost their starting quarterback in Will Worth and their best slotback in Toneo Gulley for the remainder of the year. That is why coming into this game the Black Knights have the No. 2 ranked rushing offense in the nation (328.9 yards per game) and Navy has the No. 3 rushing attack (327.5 yards per game).
Where Army lags behind Navy is in turning all that yardage into points. The Black Knights have scored 37 rushing touchdowns through 11 games, while Navy have scored 54 rushing touchdowns through 12 games. Navy though will be without Worth, the nation’s touchdown leader, so it will be interesting to see if their running game functions against a very good Army defense with third-stringer Zach Abey under center.
2) Control time of possession
This almost goes hand in hand with the first key, but if Army is to win on Saturday it will be because the Black Knights have worn down a tired and beaten up Navy team. The Black Knights have been off for three weeks since a game against Morgan State that was nothing more than a tune-up for this one. Navy, however, will be playing for the eighth week in a row and the Midshipmen defense is hurting for healthy, energetic bodies. If Army can keep its offense on the field in the first half of the game then the Navy defense will be in bad shape come the final quarter and Army should be able to run the ball at will.
3) Better special teams play
The Army special teams play has been anything but special at times this season. Navy is much more fundamentally solid on special teams and if it comes down to a battle of field position and field goals then Army could be in trouble. The Black Knights simply have to take advantage of any scoring opportunities as this is going to be a tight, lower-scoring game due to the Navy injuries and the pressure on both teams to win. A big punt return would be huge, but Army has to at the very least punt the ball well to make Navy drive 70 or 80 yards to score a touchdown every time that the Midshipmen get possession of the ball.