Key Matchups: Army vs. Morgan State

Army vs UTSA
Army vs UTSA (U.S. Army Photo by CDT Angeline Tritschler).

The fourth game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (2-1, Sagarin 71) and the Football Championship Series Mid- Eastern Atlantic Conference Morgan State Bears (1-1, Sagarin 248).

Army leads the all-time series 2-0, with the last victory coming in 2016, when Army cruised to a 60-3 victory at Michie.  Army is coming off another tremendous defensive performance on the road at San Antonio, while Morgan State was blown out by a very tough James Madison.

Last week

In San Antonio, TX

Sophomore Quarterback Jabari Laws started this year with a bang, as his 32-yard bootleg set up a three-play 63-yard touchdown drive and Army caged the Roadrunners 31-13.  The Army coaching staff rarely shares injuries with the press and unless you are viewing the practices, non-starting players can be a surprise.  Saturday was one of those days as senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins did not start.  Offensive senior Jaxon Deaton, junior Peyton Reader and Junior JB Hunter went out of the game with injuries.  Apparently, Army did limp out of the Big House and games versus San Antonio, Morgan State and a bye week were very well planned.  Thank you Boo.

While the final score made the game look easy, it was not.  Army scored a quick 10 points, but lost momentum on their third possession when senior fullback Connor Slomka (Wexford, PA) fumbled on the UTSA 13-yard line.  On the fourth possession, Roadrunner defenders were in the backfield, blowing up the option and thwarting the full back dive.  Senior linebacker Andrew Martel and senior defensive end Jarrod Carter-McLin each had 10 tackles.

The Roadrunners, cut the deficit to three on the first possession of the second half, when Lowell Narcisse bulled in for a two-yard touchdown run.  However, the defense bailed the team out again, when senior Defensive Back Javhari Bourdeau forced a fumble after a short completion on the Roadrunners next possession.  That turned the momentum as Army scored on their final three drives.

Laws lead all rushers with 137 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.  Senior running back Kell Walker gained 80 yards and two touchdowns on five carries and Slumka gained 59 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.  In three games it is clear that Army will not succeed with a dive first offensive mindset.  The offensive line has not really gelled just yet and Slomka does not have the brute power of Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson that we enjoyed over the last couple of years.  It will be interesting to see when Offensive Coordinator Brent Davis begins to alter the offense.  Hopkins certainly can throw over linebackers when they play close to the line of scrimmage.  Big plays this year have been outside of the tackles.

Senior back up placekicker David Cooper drilled a 40-yard field goal.  Punting Zachs Potter (Senior) and Harding (Sophomore) averaged 43 yards per punt.  Special teams seem to be steadily improving year over year.

A couple of discerning stats were that Army ran fewer plays than UTSA 57-60 and Army fumbled three times and lost the ball twice.  Army must adjust the offense or games against Tulane and Georgia Southern will be much tougher than originally anticipated.

In Harrisonburg, VA

The Dukes racked up 507 total yards (298 passing, 209 rushing) and averaged 5.4 yards per carry as they tamed the Bears, 63-12.

Senior Quarterback Ben DiNucci (Wexford, PA) started the game and was 18/23 for 240 yards and four touchdowns.  Junior Cole Johnson and Sophomore Gage Maloney got their chances in the second half for the Dukes.

Freshman Running Back Solomon Vanhorse started the game and gained 48 yards on seven carries. Seven other running backs carried the ball 32 times.

Sophomore Quarterback DJ Golatt started the game for the Bears, but gave way in the second possession to Senior Deandre Harris.  Harris was 11/21 for 253 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  Freshman Jabriel Johnson had 16 rushes for 50 yards.

Morgan State had three turnovers as they gave a valiant effort to move the ball.

Who is favored?

Army is favored by 49 points.

What to look for?

The Bears run a 4-3 defense that looks very similar to Army’s. Unfortunately for them, they are allowing 5.2 yards per attempt and 54.5 points per game versus Bowling Green and James Madison.  The Bears do have three defensive linemen weighing greater than 300 lbs.; 6’4 Junior Nathan Perry weighs 340 lbs.  Undoubtedly, they will stack the line with a lot of weight.  It will be interesting to see how effective the fullback dive is and how long it takes to wear these very large Bears down.

The Bears run the spread offense, very similar to Rice and Michigan.  They are averaging less than 1.9 yards per rush and completing less than half of their passes. The Army defense should have another fantastic day.  Running back Johnson and Quarterback Harris will get the bulk of their yards.  Look for Riley and Bordeau to have another big day.

This will be a great day for Army to get healthy.  We should see many new faces.  It will be interesting to see if it takes a few possessions for the offense to wear down the Bears or if they will begin scoring in their first possessions.

I think Army will be incredibly predictable and will not begin to break big gains until late in the first half.  Army wins easily but does not cover the 49 point spread.

Final Score – Army 42 – Morgan State 7 (predictions in 2019, 2-1)

This game will be shown on the CBS Sports Television at 12:00 PM EDT.

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