Key Matchups: Army vs. North Texas

(AS/Sheldon Y.)

The third game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 125, 1-1) and the Sun Belt Conference North Texas Mean Green (Sagarin 158, 0-2.) The Black Knights have not lost to the Mean Green in their previous 3 meetings.

Last year, they prevailed 17-14 in Denton, TX.  This is going to be a great matchup as the Cadets attempt to rebound from a heart-breaking, last second loss, to Hawaii, and North Texas looks for their first win after a very tough loss to the Rice Owls.

 

Last Week

PARADISE LOST…. At West Point the Black Knights lost a heartbreaker as Scott Enos kicked a 31-yard field goal with 7.3 seconds remaining and Hawaii edged Army 31-28.

 

Hawaii scored on their first two drives and was quickly out to a 14-0 lead.  Early in the 2nd quarter, a 48 yd pass made it 21-0. It was not after that Army made their first 1st down of the game, and with 4:12 minutes remaining in the half, Malcolm Brown scored on a 4-yard run to make it 7-21.

 

Army turned it around in the 3rd quarter.  Taking advantage of a couple of turnovers and an invigorated offense, Army scored 3 times in 9 1/2 minutes to take a 28-21 lead. Hawaii wasn't able to run an offensive play in the first 7 minutes of the quarter.  Junior Max Jenkins replaced Steelman, who went out for a shoulder injury and scored a touchdown on his first play, on a quarterback sneak.  He played adequately, but Army could not complete two late 4th quarter drives.  A field goal attempt was blocked and the second ended in a fumble, as Jenkins was attempting to get the ball to the center of the field for the game winning kick, with less than 30 seconds to play. Hawaii, aided by a 31 yard pass and a fairly bogus late hit call, drove to the Army 9 yd line and kicked the winning FG with 7 seconds left.  A very very tough loss.

 

Hawaii, gained 588 yds the week before against USC and 353 against Army last week.  Hawaii made 20 first downs to 19 for Army. They rushed for 10 yards, while Army rushed for 250. Yearling fullback Jared Hassin gained 83 yds on 20 carries, including a 16 yd TD. Army passed for 58 yds on 4 for 6 and Hawaii passed for 343 yds on 25 for 37. Neither team was intercepted, and both teams fumbled twice and lost both.  Army was penalized for 45 yds, Hawaii for 68. Army ran a total of 74 offensive plays to 52 for Hawaii.  Army held the ball for 38 minutes.

 

Army and Hawaii staged as exciting a contest with as thrilling a finish as any that took place in college football last week. Following up a disappointing defensive performance against Eastern Michigan, Army promptly gave up 242 1st half yards passing in spotting Hawaii a 21-0 lead.  Most Army teams of recent vintage would certainly have fallen to pieces and gone on to lose by 40 points or more...

 

But not this Army team. Bouncing back with an avalanche of outstanding offensive, defensive and special teams plays, the Black Knights scored 28 unanswered points against the Warriors. Such a comeback should have been rewarded with what would have gone down as the greatest triumph for the program in more than a decade...

 

Alas, it was all undone in the end by the handiwork of our favorite whipping boy and scape goat, Coach Ellerson.

 

We have been RE's biggest critics regarding his in-game decision-making and late-game clock management. It sure seems that every time it comes down to the decisions that make or break you, our coach seems to get it wrong. The first mysterious decision was the one where coach kept starting QB Trent Steelman on the sidelines in favor of backup Max Jenkins in the 2nd half, when Steelman reportedly could have gone back in the game. Yes, Jenkins moved the club and got some first downs, but without Steelman in the game, there was no threat of a pass, and therefore no reason for Hawaii not to keep 11 men in the box when the game was on the line, stuffing Army's last two drives. On Army's final drive, after Hassin carried for a 4 yard gain setting up 3rd and 4 at the Hawaii 23, the Warriors called a timeout with 1:01 left in the 4th quarter. On the very next play, Jenkins took a delay of game penalty. 3rd and 4 became 3rd and 9, then Jenkins fumbled, then Hawaii stole the game. What in the world happened on that sideline and in the huddle that we took a delay of game penalty after a timeout? The coach deserves a tremendous amount of credit and respect for building a team with great fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude, and for installing offensive and defensive systems that work, but once again a sideline screw-up has led to defeat. He has to do better in these late game situations.

 

In Denton, the Mean Green lost their starting Quarterback, committed three turn-overs and still nearly beat the Rice Owls in a very sloppy 32-21 loss. 

 

Nathan Tune was 20-37, for 285 yards, but suffered a dislocated hip on their final drive.  Lance Dunbar gained 105 yards on 17 carries.  They limited the Rice Owl (Sagarin 99) Offense to 351 yards and only 106 yards on the ground.

 

"We just made too many mistakes to win that football game -- in all three phases," said North Texas head coach Todd Dodge. "I'm disappointed because it's a game we should have won."

 

Who is favored?

Army is favored by 5 points.

 

What to look for?

The Mean Green are very much like Hawaii in that they put three, four or five receivers on the field, they try to spread the defense out, and they move the ball primarily through the air. Although they are not as good a passing team as Hawaii and they will be without Tune, they do have a very highly regarded and effective running back in Dunbar, and their attack is somewhat more balanced. Still, the key to this game will be Army's pass rush, which, as we predicted, dialed it up against Hawaii with four sacks (three by DE Josh McNary) and a forced fumble. They will need another performance like that against the Mean Green, and in this matchup they should be able to get it.

 

Last week's game did not start to turn until Steelman started throwing the ball, forcing Hawaii to back some defenders out of the box. North Texas will certainly try to stuff the run early on, so there should once again be plenty of opportunities to take shots downfield behind the defense.

 

Assuming Steelman is back in the starting lineup, he needs to take those shots early to keep the defense honest. If Jenkins gets the start, he probably won't throw more than three or four passes the whole game, and the offense will likely try to bore the Mean Green defense (and the fans) to death.

 

Final Score – Army 35 – North Texas 28 (predictions 2010 1-1)

 

Game will be shown on CBSSTV, 12:00PM EST.


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