Service Academy Preview: Army vs. EMU, Indiana vs. Navy, New Mexico vs. AFA
Navy and Air Force are both at home this week looking to improve their 3-3 records while Army takes the nation's best running game to Eastern Michigan in search of its second win of the season. All three games are nationally televised.
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. EDT
Where: Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Listen: WABC 770 AM in New York, N.Y.
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson at his Thursday night radio show said of this contest, "Both teams smell blood in the water."
Yes both teams are struggling but see a chance to improve their season with a win on Saturday. It will be "Band Day" at Ypsilanti with 12 high school bands performing together at halftime.
Army thought that their last-second win over Boston College two weeks ago might give them momentum for a run, but inconsistent play on both sides of the ball led to a 31-17 loss to Kent State.
Eastern Michigan, under fourth-year head coach Ron English, and Eagle fans witnessed an explosion of offense last week in a 52-47 loss to Toledo when sophomore Bronson Hill ran for 238 yards and scored four touchdowns. Hill recorded the most rushing yards by any individual player this year in the Football Bowl Subdivision. EMU has a big offensive line, with the right guard Campbell Allison standing 6'6" and weighing 324 pounds.
On defense, the Eagles give up a lot of yards—515 per game—and allow nearly 40 points per game. They struggle to stop the run, giving up 296 yards per game, so watch for Army to play ball control and pound away with Ray Maples, Malcolm Brown and crew.
As for the Black Knights, they are now without their defensive captain Nate Combs, who is out "for the foreseeable future" as coach Ellerson said Tuesday on his conference call. Watch for sophomore linebacker Geoffrey Bacon, who leads the team in tackles with 63, to step up into more of a pass rush role. Also expect senior outside linebacker Zach Watts and fellow captain Jarrett Mackey, who is normally a down lineman, to step up.
On offense, the Black Knights lead the nation in rushing, averaging 385 yards per game. Maples, Army's senior running back, is 10th in the nation in rushing, averaging 125 yards per game. QB Trent Steelman runs often as well, averaging 82 yards per game with eight touchdowns. Steelman's 36 total touchdowns is a record for a QB at the Academy. Sophomore fullback Larry Dixon averages 82 yards a game, often carrying multiple tacklers for extra yards, but he is questionable for the game with an injury.
Army could start as many as eight freshman and sophomores on defense, so the Black Knights will try to keep their offense on the field and not give Bronson Hill a chance for another big day.
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md.
Watch: CBS Sports Network
Listen: WBAL 1090 AM in Baltimore, Md., WNAV 1430 AM 99.9 FM in Annapolis, Md.
Navy got its season back on track last week with a 31-13 win at Central Michigan and now has a favorable stretch of games that could lead to a bowl game. A competitive Indiana team stands in the way of a happy Homecoming Day in Annapolis.
Indiana started with wins over Indiana State and Massachusetts but has since fallen to Ball State and Northwestern and has suffered close losses to Michigan State (31-27) and Ohio State (52-49). Kevin Wilson is the Hoosiers' second-year coach following eight years as an assistant at Oklahoma.
Navy has won three of its last four games, including a Commander-In-Chief win at Air Force two weeks ago. The defense is playing well, having not given up more than 21 points in any of the last four games. Senior safety Travis Bush and sophomore cornerback Parrish Gaines are the leading tacklers for the Midshipmen with 38 stops a piece, just ahead of senior linebackers Brye French and Matt Warrick who have 37.
Navy is averaging 231 yards rushing per game, led by quarterback Trey Miller's 58 yards per game and three touchdowns. Sophomore fullback Noah Copeland averages 57 yards per game, and Gee Gee Greene has an average of 48.
Miller has thrown three interceptions on the year and only averages 75 yards passing per game. He is being pushed by freshman Keenan Reynolds, who has completed 66 percent of his passes and thrown for three touchdowns, creating a quarterback competition in Annapolis.
Indiana can score points and likes to throw the football. The Hoosiers scored 49 points on the Buckeyes last week and average 313 yards passing per game. They average 473 yards per game but give up an average of 463 yards on defense. Indiana does well on offense without a huge offensive line. All of their offensive linemen, led by center Will Matte, are less than 300 pounds. Sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,076 yards and six touchdowns.
This could be a tough test for Navy, and the Mids will need a big defensive effort to stop a powerful offensive team from the Big Ten.
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 5 p.m. MDT
Where: Falcon Stadium, USAFA, Colo.
Watch: ROOT Sports, Comcast 261, DirecTV 683, and Dish 414
Listen: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs, Colo., The Fan 104.3 in Denver, Colo.
The Falcons righted their season and improved to 3-3 on the year, overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit to come away with a 28-27 win at Wyoming last week. Air Force now has two homes games before traveling to New York for its next Commander-In-Chief game at West Point.
Head coach Troy Calhoun and his Falcons have wins over Idaho State (49-21) and Colorado State (42-21) in addition to last week's win at Wyoming. Air Force leads the series with New Mexico 19-10 and 15-8 in Mountain West. The Falcons have won their last four matchups with the Lobos, including a 42-0 win in Albuquerque last season.
First-year New Mexico head coach and former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie is building up the program. The Lobos have won their last two games—against Texas State (35-14) and at Hawaii (35-23). Running back Kasey Carrier ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns against the Warriors. Quarterback Cole Gautsche also ran for 104 yards, giving New Mexico two 100-yard runners in the same game for the first time since 2008. They also played a close game with Boise State, losing 32-29 on Sept. 29.
Air Force has one of the best rushing offenses in the country, averaging 363 yards per game on the ground with another 117 gained per game through the air. Cody Getz, a 5'7", 175-pound senior running back from Buford, Ga., averages 154 rushing yards per game with eight touchdowns. Senior quarterback Connor Dietz from Columbus, Ohio doesn't throw often but is very accurate with a 58 percent completion rate and no interceptions. Junior Ty McArthur is the leading receiver with 14 catches for an average of 20.4 yards per reception.
On defense, the Falcons are giving up 424 yards on average each week—234 yards passing and 190 yards rushing. Air Force's leading tackler is senior linebacker Austin Niklas from Fullerton, Calif. who has 62 total tackles (33 solo) on the year.
New Mexico is the seventh-best running team in the nation, averaging 280 yards and exceeding 300 yards in three games. Like Army, the Lobos don't throw much, averaging just 59 yards through the air. On defense, they are strong against the run, giving up just 141 yards per game but give up 2800 yards per game through the air.
On third down conversions, Air Force has a significant edge, converting 56 percent of the time while New Mexico makes a first down on just 43 percent of their attempts.
This could be a challenge for Air Force as the Bob Davie-led Lobos' ground attack has new energy.
Ken Kraetzer covers Army football for WVOX 1460 AM in New Rochelle, N.Y. and Sons of the American Legion Radio. Twitter: SAL50NYRadio
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