(Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE)
The fourth game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 106, 1-2) and the Mid-American West Ball State Cardinals (Sagarin 96, 2-1.) Army leads the all-time series 2-0, with the latest win coming in 2009 @ West Point, 24-17.
Army looks to build on some serious momentum as the Cadets shocked previously unbeaten Northwestern, and Ball State looks to go 3-1 before meeting #1 Oklahoma.
At West Point, Army ran for 381 yards and held the ball for 40 plus minutes, and only lost the ball once, as Army defeated Northwestern 21-14.
This was one of the best games seen at Michie Stadium in the past 20 years. The stadium was filled to capacity, energy stirred on a beautiful West Point afternoon. The Northwestern faithful added a lot of color (purple) and energy to Michie. It had been a significant period of time that such a high profile team had played at this fantastic venue.
News outlets talked much about Trent Steelman, who scored 3 times and rushed for 108 yards on 28 carries, but the real hero of this game was the defense. Undersized or not, they limited Northwestern to 309 total yards, after the Wildcats had averaged more than 430 yards in their first 2 games. True, the Army defense was only on the field for 20 minutes and 11 possessions, but they were able to thoroughly defend and stand up against a big front line and a very fast QB and receiver core. In fact, Army very much contained the Northwestern Offense for the exception of a 3 play, 80 yard drive in the 4th quarter – after a missed Army field goal.
Steve Erzinger had 9 tackles and a sack. Justin Trimble and Andrew Rodriguez had 6 tackles each. However it was really the way the team played as a whole. They tackled well, covered well and were constantly pressuring QB Kain Coulter. After half time adjustments, they stopped Coulter’s most effective play – the QB run. Northwestern was limited to 10 yards in the 3rd quarter and 117 in the 2nd half. We seriously doubted this defense’s ability due to their lack of size, and we do think that they will struggle with teams that are committed to running between the tackles, but scheme and speed did prevail Saturday.
The offense was great; 387 total yards and 40 minutes. Army played exactly the type of game they need to and this time, they limited their turnovers. The offensive line was outstanding, always providing a surge when needed. Also Steelman showed incredible toughness and grit on several keepers where a second and third effort resulted in 1st downs and sustained drives.
Malcolm Brown (95 yards) and Raymond Naples (75 yards) add a flair of speed to the outside. Jared Hassin, with a bad back, has taken a considerably lesser role with only 11 carries and 40 yards, but his banging inside added considerable contrast.
One glaring hole in Army’s offense is the pass. Steelman was 1-7 for 6 yards. While it did not cost them against the Wildcats, this must improve if they are going to beat the likes of Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Air Force and Navy. Jared McFarlin is big and fast and a real difference maker. Steelman must figure out a way to get him the ball. Also, the Alex Carlton of last year must return. His missed field goals made the game much closer than needed and gave a huge momentum swing to Northwestern in the 4th quarter. Also, there was a dramatic improvement in the area of ball security, but the ball was still on the ground a couple of times. We would like to see that eliminated, if possible.
Overall, it was a magical day at Michie. The Wildcats brought a big conference, fans and energy to a stadium yearning for such a visitor. Perhaps the Academy brass will look at what’s left of the Big East and notice that this could be a weekly occurrence. With Pitt and Syracuse leaving the conference, they are sure to get the call.
In Muncie, IN, Keith Wenning threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead, culminating an 18-play, 75-yard drive, with 29 seconds remaining to lead Ball State to a 28-25 victory against Buffalo.
Wenning completed 24 of 36 passes for 226 yards and 2 TDs. Jahwan Edwards ran for 112 yards on 22 carries and 2 TDs. The Cardinals had 400 total yards in offense and held the ball for 33 minutes.
Buffalo rushed for 177 yards on 37 attempts – a 4.8 average. The Bulls finished with 353 total yards.
Who is favored?
Army is favored by 4 points.
What to look for?
Army will run 60 times for more than 400 yards. The offensive line should continue to provide enough holes to sustain drives and average 6 yards a carry. Look for a well-played game, but Army will have the chance to win big if they can complete a few passes, eliminate the turnovers, and run anywhere near as effectively as they have been running the last two weeks.
Ball State will do a great job of passing and running, but a well-rested Army defense should be able to provide pressure and force a couple of turnovers.
Final Score – Army 31 – Ball State 17 (predictions 2011, 1-2)
Game will be shown on ESPN3, 2:30PM EST.