This could be an Army-Navy game to remember. It is the first time since 2012 that the two teams have met with the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy on the line. The winner takes not only bragging rights in 2017, but also a trophy that Army hasn’t held since 1996. Jeff Monken and his team would love that trophy.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Ahmad Bradshaw’s decision making
The play of Black Knights quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw has really been what has fueled the team over the past couple of seasons. Bradshaw developed from great runner that had problems reading the game, to an even better runner with a full grasp of the Army offense. If Bradshaw is making the right decisions at the right time against Navy, then the Black Knights will be hard to beat.
Bradshaw is the leading quarterback on either side coming into this matchup in rushing yards (1,472) and touchdowns (11). He is going to have to be at his best as the Mids – being a triple-option team themselves – should be able to slow down the staple option plays Army has used all season. Getting to third and short has to be the initial goal, as the Army passing attack is a liability. To get there Bradshaw will need to be on point.
Throw for zero passing yards
This will be counter-intuitive to everything you have learned about football, but Army doesn’t lose when it has 0 yards passing. The Black Knights have played in three such games this season – including one against Air Force where not one pass was attempted – and they are 3-0 in those games. Interestingly, the Mids are also undefeated in games with zero yards passing after they achieved that feat in a 43-40 victory over SMU.
This just goes to show how powerful the rushing games of both these schools can be. It seems unrealistic to expect the Army rushing attack to be that dominant against Navy, but if they can keep their passing to a minimum (or not throw the ball at all) then Army will have a better shot at the win.
Win the turnover battle
No matter the two records of the Black Knights and the Midshipmen coming in, this is always a close game. Four of the last five contests have been decided by a touchdown or less, with the only blowout in the stretch coming via a 34-7 Navy victory back in 2013.
This year the teams look more evenly matched than ever, with Army having all the momentum heading to Philadelphia. If the Black Knights can protect the football – meaning no bad decisions in the option or passing game from Bradshaw – then the defense will do its part and remove the ball from the Navy offense.
A special team’s play could also turn this contest. Those players see the field so rarely that in pressure situations mistakes are always a threat of happening. It will be a cold day too, increasing the chance of fumbles happening in the option game. The team that wins the turnover battle is likely to sing last.