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Know a ’14 Opponent: Army

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to bring back a tradition here at the Pylon, Know an Opponent, in this case, the Know a ’14 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know a ’14 Opponent!

army football logoArmy Black Knights

Throughout my time working for colleges, writing this website, and just being a football fan I have had the opportunity to attend some pretty amazing games, some pretty beautiful campuses, and be a part of some pretty amazing things. Notre Dame marching band taking the field? Check. Watching the eagle fly around the stadium at Auburn? Check. Night game at South Carolina watching Cocky go crazy while 2001 plays over the stadium speakers? Check. Sweating my ass off on a hot September Saturday in Gainesville and wondering if those around me can actually smell the bourbon coming out of my pores? Check. But there’s one thing I haven’t been able to do, and that’s make it to a game at Michie Stadium in historic West Point, NY.

I’ve had my chance, mind you, as I was credentialed for the 2009 game but let the girlfriend at the time guilt me in to staying home. Cue up the Indiana Jones, because I chose… poorly. On October 4th you can scratch something off your football bucket list that should definitely be there and say you’ve done something I haven’t. The sheer beauty of this locale is almost impossible to describe, so check out the search engine of your choosing for some great scenes. Fall leaves, the Hudson Valley, and some old school triple option football at the United States Military Academy against THE Ball State University? Sounds perfect to me.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
With everything the stadium and location have going for them, the football played inside it hasn’t been very good recently. In fact, in the last 25 years, Army has made exactly two bowl games. That happens when you have a losing record in 16 of the last 17 seasons. As for the history against the mighty Cardinals, Ball State has won three straight, holds a 3-2 series advantage, and beat the Black Knights 40-14 last season in the friendly confines of Scheumann Stadium. Army did beat Eastern Michigan last year by 25 points, but hell, who didn’t?!

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Jeff Monken ArmyArmy has a new head man in charge, Jeff Monken, replacing Rich Ellerson who had led Army since 2009. Ellerson had the difficult task of bringing the triple option back to Army, and you can bet that Monken will continue that trend as he has been around the triple option for the majority of his coaching career, coaching under notorious option guru Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern, Navy, and Georgia Tech. Most recently, he was the head coach at Georgia Southern, where his worst record was still a very respectable 7-4 over four seasons at the command. His last season was his worst, as it was also the only time he didn’t lead the Eagles to the FCS Playoffs. Supporters will tell you it’s a blip on an otherwise stellar radar. Cynics will tell you as more of his players took over, the decline begain. Time till tell, I suppose.

Players and Stats of Note
The thing about the triple option is the more familiar you are with it, the better you tend to do, and Monken and the Black Knights certainly have that going for them with nine returning starters on the offensive depth chart. Angel Santiago, the most-used starting QB in 2013 is back, but he did struggle at times last season. It’s possible BSU could see AJ Schurr or Kelvin White if Santiago cannot lead the offense effectively. Running backs, as expected, are a strength of Army. Their depth came to the forefront last season when Raymond Maples (going for his third 1000-yard season in a row) was injured and yielded to Terry Baggett, who promptly rattled off his own 1100 yards and 8 TDs. Fullback Larry Dixon also had 700+ yards and six scores. So there’s that.

Defense is the giant question mark for Army, especially given this season and their new coordinator… Jay Bateman. That name should sound familiar to Cards fans, since Bateman had the same position in Muncie the last three seasons. Onward and lateral? The biggest weakness for Army is the linebacking unit, with only 13 starts amongst the returners. The defensive line and secondary should not only be improved from last season, they are basically the anchor of the defense. If Quake Edwards can get to the second level or Ozzie Mann can abuse curl and in routes, it could be a very long day for the Army defense.

If Army Football Was a Musician…
Edge again chimed in with his selection for this section, him being the musical genius that he is and all. His thoughts: “Army is not ever going to be the best in the band or the best in the FBS, but goddamnit, show some respect. Congrats, Army. You are Ringo Starr.”

How Worried Are We?
By its nature, the triple option is difficult to defend and easy for plays to break loose at any moment. It’s just as likely that you’re going to see a two yard loss as you are to see a 92 yard gain. It is really the definition of “contain”, considering the premise of defending it is strictly assignment football. That’s worry #1. Worry #2 is the familiarity that the Army defense is going to have with Ball State personnel and the basic offensive scheme, given Jay Bateman.

ThreatLevelArmyA nice cool Code Blue for the Black Knights. Without Jay Bateman and the hard to defend triple option attack, I’d say this is the greenest of code greens that another FBS team could be. Those two wrinkles, though, bump the OTP Threat Level up just slightly.

Enemy Recon
If you need to catch up on your Army reading, then feel free to check out the official Army site here. You can also check out some local news coverage here and visit their fansite here.

Kickoff on October 4 is noon and the television provider is CBS Sports Network. Seriously, though, go if you can. You will thank me later.

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